Main site homepage
Showing 3 of 3 Results

The Book Blog

profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

Ever heard of Annie Ernaux? Neither had I until a few months ago when the 82-year-old Frenchwoman won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. She also won a prize in 2019 that I’ve never heard of: the Prix Formentor, an international literary award which takes its name from the town of Formentor on the Spanish island of Mallorca that was famous for its literary gatherings.

Since discovering her autobiographical books, I’m ashamed to say that I began reading Ernaux’s short, inspired gems only after the announcement of her Nobel win, although she’s been writing for longer that I’ve been alive. Take it from me, that’s a long, long time.

I devoured the slim 48-page Simple Passion (audio book, and our library has a copy), Shame (audio, 112 pages), and A Man’s Place (audio, 103 pages). Each title is a window, no, an open door (a double French door) that invites her readers in to witness parts of her life that a less vulnerable and brave writer might not dare to do. And her life is so much like her readers. Simple Passion details her affair with a man and its totality in her daily routine. Although she doesn’t waste sentences with literary devices, the title’s irony is the exception. Nothing’s simple about Ernaux’s absorption of her lover. Or is there a simplicity to the obsession that it is common? Is the description of her passion pealing back the layers of what we’ve all felt, but refuse to discuss, at the heart of her (and my) vulnerability? When I googled Ernaux, critics repeated the words honest, not afraid to speak the truth, and ferociously sharp. Her writing is all of that and more. Most readers can relate to a time in their lives when a relationship monopolized their worlds, but Ernaux’s frank descriptions of her obsession made me simultaneously respect and relate to her:

I had no future other than the telephone call fixing our next appointment. I would try to leave the house as little as possible except for professional reasons, forever fearing that he might call during my absence. (5 and 6)

She ends this section stating that the vacuum cleaner and hair dryer were also off limits, as their loud noise might obscure the sound of his phone call. Who admits these crazy things? Even as I write this blog, I wonder how my readers will see me now. And I marvel at her obliviousness to her readers who might take offense to her frankness or see themselves among her pages. For me, Simple Passion allowed me to feel less alone; that is, if Ernaux is writing about these feelings, then maybe she and I weren’t alone in our thoughts and deeds.

Shame and A Man’s Place are equally revealing and relatable. Listening to Shame, I found myself reading the lines as if I’d written them. Ernaux was raised catholic, and the uniform she wore to school, the masses she attended, and the nuns who frightened her were my uniform, my masses, and my nuns. She ties the story of her childhood together on a day that her father tried to kill her mother (yes, you read that right) with anecdotes about feeling shame from her parents’ education level, employment, and clothing that exposed her family’s class in France. And those anecdotes are, as critics proclaim, brutally honest. Again, I marvel at her revelations, which so many times are my own. A Man’s Place is a biographical account of her dad. She focuses on his lack of health and eventual death. Neither topic is sunny or breezy, yet the connection she creates between writer and reader is strong.

After reading Ernaux, I remembered a line from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre where Jane explains her undying connection to Rochester: “I have a strange feeling with regard to you. As if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly knotted to a similar string in you.” I feel knotted to Ernaux, although in an unromantic way. I dare you to read her and not feel that same pull on your ribs.

 DRAGON: Annie Ernaux / At the age of 78 one of France's great writers is  finally wowing the English-speaking world

Annie Ernaux

Cover ArtAnnie Ernaux by Siobhan McIlvanney
ISBN: 0853235473
Publication Date: 2000-06-01

No Subjects
profile-icon Michael Ramey

For my final post of the year, I want to discuss some books in my backlog that I will (hopefully) get to during the holidays and the following year.

While in college, I became interested in environmental history which explores how people have defined the environment and how they have impacted it over time. One book that arguably launched the modern environmental movement and one I have been meaning to read for years is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Published in 1962, the book argues against the widespread use of pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which was used to kill mosquitos. Throughout the book, Carson shows how the proliferation of these chemicals in the environment had unforeseen consequences from hurting bird populations (hence the title) to finding these chemicals in human breastmilk. The book became instrumental in banning the use of DDT and inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970.

Speaking of environmental history, another book I want to read is Eleonora Rohland’s Changes in the Air: Hurricanes in New Orleans from 1718 to the Present. Even though the book itself talks about modern hurricanes in addition to older storms, I am more interested in learning about the storms that formed and hit New Orleans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and how people then dealt with them.

I also plan on continuing the Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. As I described in an earlier post, the friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin as they serve aboard warships during the Napoleonic Wars is the selling point of the series. I am now on the second book Post Captain which devotes more time developing Aubrey and Maturin on land rather than out to sea.

Finally, I want to check out William E. Nelson’s E Pluribus Unum: How the Common Law Helped Unify and Liberate Colonial America, 1607-1776. For several years I have been researching the relationship between common law and its connection with early American republic policy. Specifically, I have been studying the Alien and Sedition Acts and how the political environment became toxic enough between the Federalists and Jeffersonians to necessitate the passage of legislation seemingly antithetical to constitutional principles. I hope Nelson’s analysis will provide more background information on common law and its influence on the colonies and, subsequently, the early American republic.

I am sure more books will be added to my reading list and/or backlog in the next several months. Reading priorities may shift based on what I find, but that is part of the fun with reading: you never know where it might lead.

It has been a fun year writing for SJR State’s Book Blog. Hopefully I will have a chance to continue contributing to the Book Blog in 2023. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season and a happy new year. Thank you for reading.

Cover ArtSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
ISBN: 9780618253050
Publication Date: 2002-10-22
No Subjects
profile-icon Kendall McCurley

Since I was little, I’ve always enjoyed learning about Greek Mythology. I loved reading about the different gods and goddesses and their roles in the world in which the Greeks lived. From a variety of movies - Hercules, Clash of the Titans, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians – to TV shows such as Young Hercules (with a very young Ryan Gosling in the starring role), to modern adaptations, I’ve loved watching and reading everything I could get my hands on. About a year or so ago, I came across an ad for an online comic called Lore Olympus. It caught my attention for obvious reasons as it was a modern fantasy retelling of the story of Hades and Persephone.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Experience the propulsive love story of two Greek gods—Hades and Persephone—brought to life with lavish artwork and an irresistible contemporary voice. Scandalous gossip, wild parties, and forbidden love—witness what the gods do after dark in this stylish and contemporary reimagining of one of mythology’s most well-known stories from creator Rachel Smythe.

This colorful comic chronicles the love story of Hades and Persephone in a modern world. It reads like a TV show full of gossip and miscommunication, yet with all the gods and goddesses of Greek Mythology. The comic was so wildly popular online that that it was made into a book. There will be four volumes, with the first three already published. It is a quick read with beautiful art with multiple engaging storylines. If you are a fan of Greek Mythology, comics, or vivid colorful art, then I highly recommend giving Lore Olympus a try!

Do you have a favorite comic? Do you have a favorite Greek Mythology retelling? Tell us about it in the comments below! Don’t forget to subscribe!


Lore Olympus: Volume OneLore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe
ISBN: 9780593356074
Publication Date: 2021-11-02
No Subjects