Monthly Archives: August 2015

Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris…

Paris in July…goes into August and into the rest of my life. I just can’t stay away from a good Parisian memoir, and Turnbull’s account of her 6 years in Paris is no exception. Its actually one of my favorite memoirs due to its honesty and Turnbull’s ability to depict Paris in a thoughtful way. What really stuck out to me is that Turnbull doesn’t glamorize Paris and she doesn’t sugar coat the negatives of the city. Her experiences there, for better or for worse are her experiences. It’s a hard feat, and I’m realizing how many of the other memoirs just gloss over the racism, the cold façade of locals, the bureaucratic mess that is the government offices. Turnbull actually addresses these topics. Her’s was a memoir that did not leave me jealous, or rushing to move to Paris.

She loves the city, and she has fully adapted to Paris life. But it was a long and hard process. One that other memoirs don’t really address. This is a good one to read when I get that travel itch and crave freshly baked baguettes and inspirational architecture. I’ve been watching more French movies and listening to more French music this month, maybe due to Turnbull. Who knows. I wish I had her life. She went into Paris as already well-established world traveler. She meets Frederic at a party in Eastern Europe and they chatted for only less than an hour before he invited her to stay with him in Paris. What was meant to be a two-week stay turned into 6 years. Along the way, Turnbull dealt with a lot of culture clash, as Paris is much more restrained than her native Australia. She went through a quiet and low metamorphosis, although true to the title of her book, never really became French.

The book takes places in the mid 1990s, but Paris is timeless in a way that not much has changed socially. Contemporary memoirs and those going father back still seem to hit upon the same themes of French life. 1. The food 2. The fashion 3. Manners 4. Family and close friends 5. Bureaucracy & 6. Feeling like an outsider, but then winning over the local butcher/cheese monger, etc. I think virtually all French memoirs cover these 6 themes extensively. Turnbull added the growing racism and resentment of immigrants in France, as well as going into detail about how blunt Parisians are to offer “advice” and criticisms. Paris is a country full of contradictions Turnbull finds out. Contradictions that the French innately know and navigate. Contradictions that always leave others always peering through the window rather than inside with the party.

Almost French is an entertaining and revealing book that I would recommend to anyone interested in travel memoirs or books on Paris.

The Guardian’s Top 100 Novels Written in English

The Guardian recently released their list of the Top 100 Novels Written in English. Its a decent mix of UK and American authors. Mostly UK authors.

I’ve bolded the books I’ve read and in italics are the books I didn’t finish. My list is pitifully low, but so many of these books are new-to-me titles. And they do go back quite a ways to the 1700s. Its definitely an eclectic mix. I’m not so sure if this can be a definitive list. But its a list nonetheless. Its a list I can refer back to when I’m looking for something to read.

Bold: 24                                        Italics: 3

  1. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678)
  2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)
  3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)
  4. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)
  5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749)
  6. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759)
  7. Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
  8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
  9. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock (1818)
  10. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)
  11. Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli (1845)
  12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
  13. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
  14. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1848)
  15. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1850)
  16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
  17. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)
  18. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
  19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)
  20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9)
  21. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-2)
  22. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)
  23. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
  24. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
  25. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1900)
  26. Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)
  27. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
  28. The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)
  29. Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe (1904)
  30. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
  31. The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells (1910)
  32. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1911)
  33. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
  34. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
  35. The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)
  36. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham (1915)
  37. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920)
  38. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
  39. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)
  40. A Passage to India by EM Forster (1924)
  41. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos (1925)
  42. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)
  43. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
  44. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)
  45. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
  46. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1929)
  47. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930)
  48. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
  49. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
  50. Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos (1932)
  51. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934)
  52. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)
  53. Murphy by Samuel Beckett (1938)
  54. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
  55. Party Going by Henry Green (1939)
  56. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)
  57. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
  58. Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse (1946)
  59. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
  60. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)
  61. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)
  62. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
  63. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
  64. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
  65. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (1953)
  66. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
  67. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  68. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
  69. Voss by Patrick White (1957)
  70. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
  71. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1960)
  72. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
  73. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)
  74. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
  75. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964)
  76. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)
  77. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1966)
  78. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth (1969)
  79. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
  80. Rabbit Redux by John Updike (1971)
  81. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977)
  82. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul (1979)
  83. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
  84. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)
  85. Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (1984)
  86. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)
  87. The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald (1988)
  88. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (1988)
  89. Amongst Women by John McGahern (1990)
  90. Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)
  91. Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999)
  92. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)

Weekend Cooking: Haute Cuisine

Haute Cuisine (2012) Poster

The simple story behind Haute Cuisine is that this is the story of chef Danièle Delpeuch, who was brought in as a personal chef for President François Mitterrand. The more complex story is one of a single woman plucked from her country farm and brought into the bustling world of the Palais at N 55 Saint Honore to cook in the private kitchen strictly for this president and his guests. In this fictionalized version, Hortense Laborie portrays Delpeuch. The movie is told through flashbacks juxtaposing Hortense’s time between Paris and Antarctica. Hortense is cooking her last meal as the cafeteria chef for an Antarctic expedition. Her year-long commitment is over and she is planning on returning home to her truffle farm in France. The movie goes back and forth, starkly displaying the differences in how she is treated, respected and considered by the two worlds she inhabited. During her two-years at the Palais, she dealt with staunch sexism and opposition from the male staff of the main kitchen. They dubbed her “Du Barry” in reference to King Louis the XV mistress. What really brought the movie together was its devotion to simple yet intricate meals. What the President and Hortense consider to be simple meals reminiscent of what grandmother cooked seems so overly ornate and complex to my peasant taste buds.

For the most part, the movie is about food. Despite the tension between the two kitchens, there isn’t really much of a developed plot. Its about Hortense’s struggles to cook what she and the president want against the rules set against her by the president’s staff. The movie is… I don’t know what. I wouldn’t classify it as a drama, but its serious in tone. I do love the friendship between Hortense and her pastry chef assistant Nicolas. The quips they share back and forth in the kitchen are endearing. I should note that the movie is in French with English subtitles.

The meals concocted and devised in this movie had me staring at my kitchen in resentment and jealousy. I’ve been working as a full-time librarian for the past 2 months and as a result, I haven’t been cooking or baking anything besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunches for the family. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I began watching this movie. The care and thought that goes into planning each meal in the movie is so mesmerizing. I want those skills. I want that knowledge of food and how to incorporate it all together into one amazingly “simple” meal.


Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

Book Revew: The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Source: My Copy
Find this book at your local library

This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now. I don’t remember exactly why I grabbed it other than knowing that the author is someone well-known and a person that well-read readers read. I was not disappointed.

From the introduction to the very first page of the book, I was mesmerized by Maugham’s use of language to paint such a stoic, dramatic and engaging perspective of life. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started reading this book, I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I began reading.

The book begins with a short biography about Kitty, who is born and bred for a fine marriage. When that fails, her mother marries her off to the next available suitor, Mr. Walter Fane. Shortly after marriage, Kitty accompanies her husband to China. His work as a bacteriologist leads him away from their home in England. Once in China, Kitty is bored and unhappy with her marriage and engages in an affair with colonial officer Charles Townsend. Up until this point, I had Anna Karenina similarities running through my head and I found Kitty to be incredibly vapid and annoying. That is until Walter found out about the affair and gave Kitty two options. 1) Divorce (on the condition that she marry Charles in 2 weeks time) or 2) accompany him to cholera-ridden town of Mei-tan-fu. This marks the turning point for Kitty, when Charles undoubtedly lets her down. Whisked away to the dangerous city, Kitty befriends the French nuns at the local church and begins to work with them, helping the young children in the village.

In its simplest description, it’s a tale of redemption for Kitty. She commits a sin, denies the sin, accepts the sin and tries to atone for it. Watching the slow evolution of Kitty took me by surprise. I didn’t fully realize how much she had changed until the end. Even then, she still hadn’t changed that much, at least not when reintroduced to Charles Townsend towards the end of the book. The novel had its racist moments particularly in the descriptions of the Chinese citizens. The book was written in the 1924, not that it’s an excuse, but apparently it was accepted commentary back then. Maugham didn’t really shed anyone in a favorable light except maybe the Mother Superior. Kitty, Charles, Walter, everyone had their faults and insecurities. Even in her search for redemption, I still found Kitty slightly unlikable.

The book is very short, but covers so much ground. Racism, colonialism, adultery, isolation, filial strains, friendship, unhappiness, etc. The list goes on. Quite a few times I forgot that the book was written nearly 90 years ago, so many of the issues brought up in the book are contemporary issues of today. I think that’s what makes this book a classic and timeless in its message.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 8/10/2015

Where, When, How: Reading Habits Survey

I feel like I’ve been getting so many new followers over the past few months, but I’ve said very little by way of introduction. I’m Nari, a librarian in the Bay Area. I’ve lived in California pretty much my entire life. I’ve been an avid reader since I was a little kid. I was in 1st grade when the public librarian came to my elementary school to do a song and dance assembly about the library. That same weekend, I dragged my parents to the library to get my first library card. My life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve been a librarian since 2008, alternating between children’s librarian and generalist librarian. I do weekly storytimes at my library for the baby/toddler range. But I mostly read books for adults, as you’ve seen here, and I’m in charge of monitoring the adult fiction collection at my library. I love my job. Its not even a job. I just love what I do everyday when I walk through the library walls.

where, when, how: a q&a about reading habits

This is a fun little survey that I picked up from I’m Lost in Books, who picked it up from Florinda, who got it from Suey’s blog. The chain just keeps going.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Usually on the left-side corner of my couch. Its the spot closest to the coffee table where I keep my coffee and various snacks while I read.  

2. Do you use a bookmark or a random piece of paper?

Don’t hate me, but I dog ear my own books to mark their places. I often use random slips of paper for library books though. Or the dust jacket works just as well for hardcover books. I used to have a bookmark collection, particularly those miscellaneous ones found in library books. But I never used them…

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain amount of pages

I can stop reading, but I need a specific marker, like the last sentence on the page. I get into trouble if the sentence goes onto the next page…Hm, maybe I can’t stop reading at will after all.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

I usually do my reading during my lunch hour, so yes. Food and drinks abound during reading time. I see no reason to split the two up. Some books go wonderfully with cakes and pastries.
5. Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?

At home, I like to have the TV on quietly as background noise. At work, I like to read in complete silence out at the nearest park. No music though unless its classic or instrumental. The melody messes with the pace of the books for me.

6. Do you read one book at a time or several at once?
I’ll start many books at the same time. Then usually read just one or two at a time and return the rest that didn’t keep a grip on my attention.

7. Do you prefer to read at home or anywhere?

I like reading on trains and planes the best. But I can mostly read anywhere. If I read at home, its during the day. If I try to read after I get home from work, then all I’m reading is Tumblr. I can usually sneak in a few pages right before I go to bed though.

8. Do you read out loud or silently?

Silently. I do laugh out loud at the funny parts.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I skim paragraphs that drone on and on, but I don’t skip pages or jump ahead.

10. Do you break the spine or keep it like new?

My motto is that a well-read book is a well-used book. A book that’s gone with me everywhere and has experiences life with me, albeit all through my purse. My books are hardly in pristine condition, and I don’t care to keep them as such. I don’t mind bent spines or dog-eared pages. I hate rips and stains though.

11. Do you write in your books?

Not since I graduated college. If I didn’t write notes in the books, I’d never know what to refer back to for an essay assignment. I don’t anymore, because 90% of the books I read come from the library. I do wish I had a consistent way to track my thoughts though. They seem to float away once I finish a book.
Thanks for listening to me ramble! Please send me a link if you fill out this survey! I’d love to know more about you all.
© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 8/07/2015

Book Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux,
ISBN: 9780374280963, 2007
Find this book at your local library

While visiting the mobile library one day, the Queen finds herself obliged to borrow one of the books resting on the selves. Although seemingly innocuous at first, this first book leads her to another, then another, causing quite the sensation amongst her staff. Even the queen finds herself questioning her role at the head of the monarchy.

Although the premise is enticing, and the book length is incredibly short, I found this book somewhat lacking. I never really attached to the queen and didn’t see her attachment for books develop in a natural way. In a way, this book felt like a rough draft of what could be a much longer book. At its simplest form, it’s a book about the love of reading and how easy it is to latch onto something so personal. Although we don’t really witness any growth in the Queen, we see lots of reactions to her latest hobby through her staff. It’s apparently in very poor taste for the Queen to take up a hobby such as reading. It pulls her away from her duties, it means that she has preferences, which are particularly bad for a monarch to have. The intense misunderstanding and distaste for her newfound passion was what was the most interesting thing about the book. It was never really clear why everyone took to it so poorly. I found it hard to believe that out of everyone in that building, everyone that she came across, only little Norman from the kitchen shared her love of reading and would have a discourse with her about the different books they’d discovered.

I would have liked to see more of the intermediary steps a reader goes through as the Queen experienced it, but I did like the idea of jotting down notes, quotes and ideas in a little journal. Its something I try to do, but I never have the journal with me when I’m reading. This book is really an ode to reading and the value of reading in our lives. It’s not necessarily about who the reader is. I think the Queen can be interchangeable with any other humanoid person for this book to still pass along the same message. It’s not really about royalty reading and shirking their duties. It’s about finding the right book and letting it lead us to wherever we may follow, trusting that the author will help us learn something new along the way.

About the author

Author photo. Courtesy of Allen and UnwinAlan Bennett has been one of England’s leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His work includes the Talking Heads television series, and the stage plays Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, and The Madness of King George III. His recent play, The History Boys (now a major motion picture), won six Tony Awards, including best play, in 2006. In the same year his memoir, Untold Stories, was a number-one bestseller in the United Kingdom. (

Books by the author: More than 100 titles!

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 8/06/2015

Paris to London via The British Books Challenge

July was a wonderfully Parisian month for me. I watched lots of movies, read lots of good books and had fun at a French festival eating delicious pastries and enjoying the seaside views from Santa Barbara.

Now its time to hop on the Chunnel and travel to London for the British Book Challenge, because…well why not? I’ve always been torn between the two countries with my reading and pop media obsessions.

The British Books Challenge is a reading challenge that will be running here on Fluttering Butterflies between 1st January to 31st December 2015 and the main focus of the challenge is reading and reviewing books by British authors.

This challenge is available for all bloggers and/or booktubers who review books on their blogs, YouTube channels or readers who review on other websites such as Goodreads.

If you sign up for the challenge you will be aiming to read at least 12 books by British authors (which works out to one a month).
Those are the main rules.
I’m supposed to compile a list of books to read, but that is where I’m drawing a blank and I’m hoping this challenge might help. I want to read something set in contemporary England with contemporary characters. Not historical fiction, not classic literature. But real life stories. I did recently start this book, Sorry! The English and Their Manners by Henry Hitchings. It’s a bit on the dry side, but still fairly enlightening about English culture and history.
I also read this book earlier this year, That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore.That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About UsThis one I really enjoyed. It was very educational, funny and really helped take a lot of the glamour out of life across the pond. We’re not all that different, despite our stubborn insistence. Well, maybe I’m not that different. I grew up heavily influenced by British pop culture. I watched Mr. Bean and Are You Being Served growing up. I devoured Brit Pop in middle school and high school. I saw Oasis and Travis in concert, had an obsession with Radiohead. I even accidentally focused my English degree in college on Victorian Literature in England. It wasn’t planned, but my classes just happened to focus on that era.
Anyway, this turning in a rambling post. I’m not sure what to read next, but I’m hoping to collect an exciting collection of titles through this challenge.