Archives for posts with tag: France

Hi all:

Today I bring you one of my reviews as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. First, let me tell you a little bit about the book:

The Undertaker's Son by B A Spicer

The Undertaker’s Son by B A Spicer

The Undertaker’s Son by B A Spicer

A picturesque village in south-west France offers the chance of a new life for Martha Burton. But, beneath the rural idyll, lurks an evil that will not remain buried forever.

Claude Cousteau has never been in love. He has no real friends. The only meaningful attachment he has ever formed is to Felix Dumas, an influential lawyer, who once showed him kindness and with whom he spent an idyllic sunny afternoon, as a child.

When Felix Dumas’ way of life comes under threat, Claude is determined to defend the only true friend he has ever had.

 

Author Bev Spicer

Author Bev Spicer

About the author:

Bev Spicer was born in Bridgnorth, a small market town in the Midlands. Her father was an Observer for the RAF and an experienced glider pilot (Bev spent many a weekend at the Midland Gliding Club, where she too learned to glide). Her mother was a local beauty queen and county hockey player, who still lives in Bridgnorth.

Bev was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and became a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University in 1997, moving to live in France with her husband and her two youngest children ten years later, where she lives in a lovely Charentaise house (in need of renovation).

She is widely read and has travelled extensively, living in Crete, where she taught English and learned to speak Greek, and in Seychelles, where she worked for the government and co-designed materials which were used to teach at secondary school level. She now writes every day and teaches English in her spare time.

Her humorous memoirs have been widely praised for their light-hearted but intelligent style, and hilarious, fast-paced dialogue. Her more literary novels and short stories have been equally well received for their complex characters, impressive prose, and imaginative settings.

You can find Bev’s blog here: http://baspicer.blogspot.fr/

Her Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1D1fiWF

She’s on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BevSpice

Her Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Bev-Spicer/e/B008BHV7YC/

And now, my review:

I am reviewing this book as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie and to the author for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The book intrigued me because of the description and the setting. We all seem to expect crime, and crime novels, to be set in big cities, but when evil hides in a small, picturesque and peaceful town, it seems worse. As if evil had no place in such environment. It’s true that it’s perhaps more difficult to hide in a small and idyllic French town, but some manage to hide in plain sight.

The novel, written in the third person, is told from the point of view of a large number of characters, from the “evil” character hinted at in the description, the undertaker’s son of the title, Claude, to Patrice, a young student who ends up being more central to the plot than it seems at first. The author allows us to peer into the heads of her characters, and this is sometimes a very agreeable experience (like in the case of Martha Burton, the British divorcee out to create a new life for herself in France, who, despite disappointments in love is fairly happy), and at others, an utterly terrifying one. Apart from Claude, who has no redeeming qualities, and Patrice, who is a nice young man without any shades, all the rest of the characters are all too human: they hesitate, they are morally ambiguous at times, and even downright immoral. Felix Dumas, the crook, is utterly dislikeable, but even he has some redeeming qualities (he does not understand his son, but seems to love him, and he tells Claude not to take drastic measures. He does not want anyone killed.) And Angeline… It’s a credit to the author that by allowing us into the minds of her characters, we might not agree with what they do, the secrets they keep, or their reasons and justifications, but we understand them. Well, that is, except for Claude.

Claude reminded me of the main character in Peeping Tom due to his fascination with death. But, in contrast with Mark Lewis, the protagonist of Peeping Tom, who is a victim of his father’s psychological experiments, Claude is unknowable. We share his memories and see his attachment to Felix, but he operates outside of our conceptions of right and wrong. He’s a psychopath, but from what we get to see of him, he uses his interest and fascination with death in a utilitarian way, and turns it into a business, rather than being compelled to kill. He plans his jobs with military precision, and seems alien to humankind, functioning at a different level. This is not the typical serial killer whose neighbours would say he seemed so “normal”. He is nothing if not extraordinary. A character very difficult to forget that makes us question the limits of humanity and conscience.

The plot is intriguing but the writing ebbs and flows through certain moments, like parties, planting a tree, and the fleeting memories of a dementing old-man, that help us get a vivid sense of the town and its people, and make us care for the fate of its inhabitants. For the duration of the book we become privileged town dwellers and get to know everybody. This is not a frantically paced thriller, but a novel that shares in the more relaxed pace of its setting, and that’s perhaps what makes it more chilling.

The ending is satisfying (perhaps everything works out too well and that’s the least realistic aspect of the novel) and reassuring. I look forward to reading more novels by B A Spicer.

Four and a half stars.

I haven’t forgotten the links, but the author just let me know that on 7th and 8th, to coincide with this post, her book would be FREE, so make sure to get it!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G04DWWS/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00G04DWWS/

Thanks to Rosie for creating and coordinating her team, thanks to B A Spicer for her book, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know, if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and of course, CLICK! It’s FREE!

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Hi all:

It’s Friday and after our culinary interlude, I’m going back to writing about guest authors and their books. Today, it’s the turn of Chris Rose, who is a member of one of the groups of authors I belong too and visit often, ASMSG,and who shares with me his love of translating (in his case mostly French and in a more professional capacity) and a cracking sense of humour. (We’ve also discovered I’ve worked in the city were he was born for quite a few years).

But well, enough chit-chat, here is Chris:

Author Chris Rose

Author Chris Rose

Born and bred in the city of steel: Sheffield.

Spent – or misspent, whichever your viewpoint – the majority of his ‘young’ years on the Northern Soul circuit. It’s around this time and place that his novel is set – Wood, Talc and Mr. J’

His academic education came much later, from scratch, in a sense. In time, he fell in love with the idea of languages, French in particular, and went on to get a BA Hons in French Language and Literature with subsidiary Spanish, at The University of Sheffield. He was a ‘mature student’, though maybe not as mature as he would like to think, looking back…

After which, he moved down south – mid 90s – and eventually further still to the South of France for a few years, where he taught English. He then moved up to northern France to do much the same thing.

But it was here where he also began to write, or experiment with writing.

He came back to England in the mid-00s and lived in North London for five years, teaching and writing again.

And for the last four or five years, he’s lived in Norwich, where he’s completed a Masters in Literary Translation, at the UEA – he likes to believe he’s most definitely mature now!

He’s now working his way toward making a living by writing, with a little translation on the side…

He tends to be picky about books, and take his time reading them; he expects each word to count; something he can go back to, read again – and again. Things witty, satirical, poetic… Moving. Favourite writers of late? Maybe Markas Zusak. Anna Funder, her ‘All That I Am’. Actually, he’s only just discovered Kurt Vonnegut, and read ‘The Slaughterhouse Five’.

Soulful writers, and their soulful things. And maybe he tries to emulate them.

Same goes for his taste in films, music… and people.

Chris is currently working on a sequel to his debut novel, Wood, Talc and Mr. J, but the title of which he prefers to keep a secret for the time being. he is also collaborating with his illustrator on a series of children’s stories…

Here are some of his links:

Amazon author page:

http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Rose/e/B00LW3RIRM/ 

Website – please like my home page!

http://woodtalcandmrj.com/

Goodreads: 

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7868651.Chris_Rose

Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/WoodTalcandMrJ

 Twitter:

https://twitter.com/WritingOnACloud

 Rebelmouse:

https://www.rebelmouse.com/Chris_Rose/

Authorsdb:

http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/14198-chris-rose.

And this is his novel:

Wood, Talc and Mr.J by Chris Rose

Wood, Talc and Mr.J by Chris Rose

A look back. Without the rose-tinted spectacles, but with hindsight and humour, and with poignancy and affection. 1978. The North. Phillip sees life in a simplistic if passionate way: up or down, us and them, black, white and nothing in-between. When not doing his ‘thing’ in Wigan’s Casino Club – voted ‘The Greatest Disco in the World’ by Time Magazine – Phillip hates the world. Or at least he thinks he does. He longs for the weekend, or a greater, permanent escape from the daily grind of factory life in an industrial town. With a little imagination, he might realise things midweek aren’t that bad: there’s the loving family, the secure job amid mass unemployment, a relationship with the perfect young woman… Or maybe he realises too late. And all he’d deemed important was only ever an illusion, his reflected image included. Coming full circle by way of loss and more loss, you would hope lessons are learned… The book progresses through myriad dream sequences, interwoven song-themes, a father’s philosophical ramblings, ever blackening wit, leitmotif – or seemingly recurring scenes; is someone laughing at our hero? And Phillip’s own, lyrical, strut-like, black or white manner. Dancehall adventures via train rides to Heaven, scooter cruising almost coast to coast. Beneath the pier encounters with the opposite sex, et al… set against the birth of Scargill and Thatcher feuding…

Link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LOWZJTK/

Thanks so much to Chris for visiting, thanks to you all for reading, and you know the drill, if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and please, CLICK!

I have written a few posts about two of my mother’s uncles, Josep and Conrado Miret Musté, who fled Barcelona during the Civil War and went to France.
You’ll remember one of my cousins, Juan Molet, has been researching documentation regarding their lives (and deaths) but so far he had not been able to find confirmation that Conrado died.
Juan participated in a homage organised in honour of the Spaniards who fought with the French Resistance in Prayols last weekend. Here it was revealed that finally a document had been found confirming that he had died on the 27th February 1942. I attach the document that gives few details, other than there was a witness statement by one of the guardians of the prison (Rue la Santé 42) . It seems indeed he died under torture. Now, with this document, he finally has been given the status of having died for France.

Conrado%20%20-%20ce%20que%20porté%20sur%20registre%20maintenant[1]
I also attach copy of the picture they officials used to search for him. I find it quite haunting, but it might be the family thing.
Portrait à tirer MIRET

And here my cousin in front of the picture.

SAM_3118[1]

He mentions that he had a chance to talk to Ángel Álvarez, member of the Republican Army (Exercit Popular de la Republica), member of the Resistence in France, and the first Spaniard who managed to escape from the train taking him to Dachau. My cousin explains that his was a sad but illuminating story.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to meet my cousin when I visit Barcelona in September and I will bring back some more information and insights to share.
Thank you for reading and please share. And if you have any relevant stories or information, do let me know.

conrado%20et%20jose[1]

Hi all:

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll remember that I’ve posted on a few occasions about my mother’s uncles, Josep and Conrado Miret, and the research that one of my cousins, Juan Molet, is pursuing trying to find all the information possible about their fates and stories.

Both brothers were involved in politics (PSUC, Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya) in Catalonia (Barcelona) and Josep was in the government of the Generalitat at the time of the Spanish Civil War. When this was lost to Franco’s troops both brothers exiled to France where they continued their political task and got involved in the French resistance, reorganising the party abroad.

Josep was captured, sent to Mathausen and died in Florindorf.

Members of the French resistance group Maquis ...

Members of the French resistance group Maquis in La Tresorerie, 14 September 1944, Boulogne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conrado’s (the one on the right) fate is a bit more mysterious. With his brother he got involved in the French Resistance against the Nazis, and it seems that he had a role protecting some important members of the militia and also intimidating the traitors. (I know he was a rugby player, so I suspect he must have been quite a strong man). He was in charge of the OS-MOI (armed groups of various nationalities fighting with French resistance). Amongst other actions they were involved in destroying two German military convoys, setting fire to a German garage, and attacking the factory SOGA with Molotov cocktails.

He was arrested in February 1942 during a fight and he disappeared without a trace. He was not present at the trial of all his colleagues, and it is suspected that he died tortured at the hands of the Gestapo. My cousin received a letter from the French Ministry of Defence where they could only confirm that he had been arrested and imprisoned in Fresnes ‘for terrorist activity’ on the 27th February 1942. The prison had not death certificate or other documentation about him.

Thanks so much for reading and if you have any information or know of somebody who studies the field and might have access to sources we’d be very grateful.

conrado%20et%20jose[1]

Hi all:
You’ll remember that I recently wrote a post about my cousin (second cousin on my mother’s side), Juan Molet, who is doing research into the family history, in particular about two of our grandmother’s brothers, Josep and Conrado Miret. They were both involved in politics in Catalonia (in the era of the Second Republic, pre-Franco), and Josep was the equivalent to a minister in the government and belonged to the PSUC (Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya, a communist nationalist party, still in existence today).

Español: Bandera de España durante la Segunda ...

Español: Bandera de España durante la Segunda República (1931-1939) Diseño inicial de proporciones 3:5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My cousin has been kind enough to share some of the information he has been gathering and I thought I’d offer you an update. Josep was involved in the French Resistance after he exiled himself to France during the Spanish Civil War, and he had a daughter with a woman in the French resistance. His daughter, Magdalena (is a name that runs in the family…My mother and one of her aunts are also called Magdalena) now lives in Australia. Unfortunately (but understandably in the circumstances) she has no information about her father.

Josep Miret Muste 1939

My cousin also sent me copies (translated to English) of testimonies from men who were with Josep during his period in France and later in the concentration camp. I enclose one of them, that I found very moving.

Memories of Miret – by André Arlas

Toward the end of 1941, the inter-regional head of the French Communist Party introduced me in Bordeaux to a ‘comrade’ so that I could in turn introduce him to the leader of the Spanish freedom fighters in Gironde and with whom I was in contact.

After having set a place and a time for that meeting, this ‘comrade’ whose name had not been given to me, left.  We had exchanged not more than 20 words and our meeting had lasted less than 5 minutes.  However, the brief meeting had made quite an impression on me and what had struck me about this comrade was his concise way in which he expressed himself, together with an air of authority and strong personality which inspired trust.

I had not realised then that I would get to know him better and in circumstances such that qualities, faults, greatness and smallness cannot be hidden.  I met this comrade for the second time in June 1943 and I found out his name:  Josep Miret known as ‘Emile’.  It was in the nazi extermination camp of Mauthausen.  A few days later, we left together for the Schwechat commando and from that time on I stayed with him until his death.  We had been assigned to the same kind of work and I was working opposite him at a welding bench.

During those long months of suffering I was able to appreciate his exceptional qualities.  He had the gif of attracting friendship and for those privileged enough to know him, he was a source of benevolent warmth.  He had a sunny disposition – how many songs had he sung for us – a great dynamism and vitality, he enabled us to share his enthusiasm and his unshakeable trust in the future.  Very modest, he never tried to put himself forward.  It took me months, following my questions, to discover what had been his important responsibilities in the Spanish Communist Party  in Catalonia, in the Spanish Republican Army, as a Minister , or in the resistance movement in France.  But most of all, he stood out with his unique personality, his calm courage and his very lively disposition.  One must add his instinctive kindness.  How precious have his support, solidarity, moral as well as material, each time he was able to demonstrate it towards his comrades, Spanish and French.  How precious as well have been his wise advices which have guided us.

Following the bombing of Schwechat, we were taken to Florisdorf.  During the air raids, we were sent to caves.  Josep Miret, lover of life, sun, ‘lover of freedom’ as he called himself, could not stand being underground like rats.  He therefore asked to be assigned to the fire fighting kommando.  Unfortunately, shortly before the camp was liberated, he was wounded and an SS shot him dead.

We were of course used to see death on a daily basis but his death had been considered by all who knew him as the most unjust.  He was a very dear friend, a beloved brother, the one we admired most and that we all mourned.

So, it seems normal, after so many years, that his memory has remained so vivid and I am certain that is the same for all who have had the privilege to know him.  Miret had always been very discreet about his private life.  He was telling me that now was not the time to be soft and wonder about the fate of our loved ones as we had no answer.  He felt that we should instead harden, and keep our strength to survive until the victory.

Thus, upon my return from the camp, when I heard about the terrible ordeal suffered by Miret, with infallible courage, my admiration for him grew even more. The death of Miret, who died so young, has certainly deprived d the Spanish Communist Party of a great leader.  By his demise, the Spanish people have lost one of their brightest sons and France lost a great friend.

For my part, I could never forget the exemplary man, in every way, that Josep Miret had been.

André Arlas

Deported resistant fighter to Mauthausen

Number 34482

I hope there might be more posts to come with further information. And as I mentioned before, if you have an expertise on the subject or know somebody who does, we’d be very grateful to hear form you.

Thank you for reading. And on Friday…I’m waiting for confirmation of a guest post, but if that doesn’t happen I have some ideas…And an announcement to make about a free giveaway!

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