December 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

Hello, everyone, I usually don’t post monthly wrap-up as I like to write long individual reviews for each book I read (for which I’m sure you’re very grateful lol) but this month, I read quite a few books I don’t have that much to say about.

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively

Weirdly, I bought this thinking it was a poetry collection of the author? I had seen her name and her books on bookstagram a lot and when I saw this beautiful little book, I thought it a good way to get introduced to her writing.
Now, I’m not a gardener nor am I especially interested in it? But I’m a literature student and I like to study texts and that’s precisely what Lively does in this little book: she studies authors’ knowledge on gardening through the depictions / the space allotted to them in their literary works. She mentioned authors that I had heard of and some I didn’t but it was still interesting, well-written and it felt a cosy reading experience, as well as a quick one.

Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy

I read this book because someone I follow on Instagram gave it 5 stars and it made me curious. Having read it, I definitely think I should have started with the author’ works of fiction first because I felt quite detached to her. However, the writing was impactful, the hardships her family faced were horrendous and she truly was someone to look up to, having gone through all of that. I do believe her works must be powerful if it reflects her own trials and experiences. The discussion on faith especially as she was a woman raised in a catholic environment, was also of great interest to me. If you have any recommendation for her work of fiction, please let me know.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I have been wanting to watch the adaptation available on Netflix for a while, but of course, I needed to read the book first and oh! I’m so glad I did!! I enjoyed this so much. Anne is so endearing in her own quirky very chatty way haha! she’s a ball of energy and dreams and homey feelings. Marilla and Mathew made my heart full. Mrs Lynde infuriated me. I loved the passages at school with Diana and Gilbert and Ruby and all the children. I was wandering in my head in all the places Anne facies renaming. She romanticises life and appreciates the little things, this book calmed me and gave me so much comfort, I’m so grateful for it. I did not expect what happens at the end to… happen! I was soooo heartbroken! Why!!!! My favourite character, I’m so sad!! But also, given that there are 4 sequels I was not expecting to see Anne be a grown§up at the end of the first volume? I’m very curious about the sequel because of that!

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

This was my final book of the year, purely because I wanted something quick, 19th century literature and slow. But I was not expecting it to be so powerful. The narrator’s voice is so strong, so assertive. Her ideas, her values and morals are essential to her and she sets people at the same level of expectations and when they do not meet them, boy do they get criticised sharply (in the narrative, as she needs the money to keep providing for her family). I loved that narrative voice. It was excruciating to know that Anne herself had to go through similar experiences and that possibly she was writing word for word what she had lived… but I can only imagine the power this book had when it got published and those high-society families were faced with a judging mirror of their own selfishness and stupidity. The education these children are given is ridiculous, what the governesses are powerless and the mothers are just helplessly incapable of discernment. It was infuriating.
Now, the problem is much bigger than rich white women being overbearingly forgiving mothers towards their children, as they themselves lacked proper education / development of their judgment but reading Agnes Grey’s experience was painful… so much so that the sweet romance at the end did not bother me, even if you see it coming from chapters away haha!

Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville

I must admit it went completely over my head and as I read it for class, I couldn’t ait for my teacher’s explanations lol. When she started talking of capitalism, exploiting workers, men’ doom fate and the life of Melville I realised just how much I was off!! I thought this was some kind of absurd short-story of something but it’s pretty complex and philosophical and I’m far too dumb for it! Now, it makes me think I’ll never be able to understand Moby Dick!

William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe

Clever, creepy, suspenseful and gothic. I liked this short-story a lot, it was interesting to study it too. We were discussing the figure of the creator in class so we talked of psychoanalysis, the autobiography as a genre, Poe’s own life and struggles, etc. This man sure had quite the imaginative mind, although it’s terribly dark and twisted the products are surprising and so well-done!

Rereads

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert L. Stevenson

How many times have I had to reread this book for a class in my 6 years of English studies? Thankfully, I just love it and notice little things each time. Here again, we studied the figure of the creator and of course, it fits the theme perfectly, just as Frankenstein does. But the teacher provided us with a lot of research articles and papers and it made the reading so much deeper and complex, I was very glad to revisit the text in such a way!

Frankenstein 1818 The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.

I read it for myself 2-3 years ago and honestly, I had liked it but I knew I had not understood all the philosophical implications of it. I haven’t read Milton, I’m not familiar with the Bible and not well-versed in mythology, nor was I very educated on Romanticism as a genre or the Gothic. I dare say on those two last points, I gain considerable knowledge and the rest was provided by the teacher, so this time I got a loooot from it. Also, I listened to the audiobook, which made appreciate the writing-style even more. Mary Shelley truly was an impressive writer and to write this at such a young age too!! The teacher made us read the 1818 version and I think I had read 1831 but I didn’t notice differences because I remembered more the atmosphere of the book rather than the actual story? Well, except for that cruel ending. Anyway, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to revisit this book thoroughly: it deserved it!

Guide pour des cadeaux littéraires (2020).

Pour les fêtes de fin d’année, les maisons d’édition exposent leurs beaux livres onéreux partout : ils font d’excellents cadeaux. Je suis toujours tentée de m’acheter un nouveau Dautremer ou Lacombe à cette période (des valeurs sûres). Je serais curieuse de connaître les vôtres ?

Les illustrés pour petits et grands

Boréal-Express de Chris Vann Allsburg chez Ecole des Loisirs (coll. Lutin)

Le petit théâtre de Rebecca Dautremer chez Gautier Languereau

Kodhja de Thomas Scotto et Régis Lejonc chez Thierry Magnier

Les illustrés pour les grands


Littérature

Littérature jeunesse

Autour du livre

Quelques suggestions pour les lecteurs.rices pour qui vous ne sauriez choisir un titre en particulier :
— Un carnet de lecture. La personne (ou vous-mêmes!) n’utilise(z) pas Goodreads ? C’est le cadeau idéal et sur Etsy, on en trouve des sublimes tout en soutenant des artisans et artistes directement.
— Un abonnement à une boîte livresque. Pour les lecteurs qui sont curieux de tous les genres et aventureux dans leur goûts !
— Un abonnement à une plateforme proposant des livres-audio. Quelqu’un qui n’a pas le temps de se poser avec un livre mais qui adore lire ? quelqu’un qui a beaucoup de transport en commun / trajet dans sa journée ? Quel cadeau idéal !
— Un abonnement à la médiathèque locale ! Ne sous-estimez pas les ressources de vos établissements publics de lectures : ils cachent de petites pépites et essaieront toujours de vous dégoter auprès de la bibliothèque départementale les petits bijoux que leur budget ne leur permet pas d’acquérir eux-mêmes !
— Un coffret livresque. Les oeuvres complètes d’auteurs, une saga entière, une édition reliée sublime. Qui n’adore pas les livres quand ils ressemblent à des oeuvres d’art !

Alors, qu’offrirez-vous à vos proches / à vous-mêmes ? ❤️


Pour ma prochaine publication, je vous partagerai mon avis sur mon livre préféré de l’année 2020, une idée du titre dont il s’agit ?

xx,
Laurie

Book Review | Écoutez nos défaites de Laurent Gaudé.

Les romans polyphoniques ne sont pas ma tasse de thé, je finis toujours par préférer un point de vue et m’ennuyer durant les autres… Sauf quand l’écriture m’hypnotise et qui de mieux pour cela que Laurent Gaudé ? J’avais lu Cris pour le D.U.T. et ce petit ouvrage m’avait laissée sans voix (et le cœur brisé).

En 2016, j’avais feuilleté la première page d’Ecoutez nos défaites en librairie. Je n’avais pas voulu acheter la version grand format de chez Actes Sud (je leur préfère la collection format poche Babel) mais il ne semblait jamais paraître jusque récemment. Alors je l’ai emprunté à la médiathèque et le résumé à lui seul annonçait la tristesse du contenu.

Au cœur d’une réalité caractérisée par des attentats terroristes et des guerres incessantes, une femme et un homme, tous deux pleins de secrets, partagent une nuit de déconnexion avant de retourner à leur vie entourée de destruction, de mort et de saccages. Passionnés, confondant leur travail avec leur identité propre, ils continuent d’avancer, de se battre. Ils ont le sentiment constant de crier dans le vide.

Dans leurs pas résonnent ceux qui les ont précédés : certains chapitres racontent donc la quête d’Hannibal, l’engagement d’un capitaine durant la guerre de Sécession. Les sacrifices de leurs hommes, leurs ambitions démesurées, leurs cris dans le vide…. et bien sûr, leur défaite… à tous.

Mélancolique et désabusé, ce portrait lyrique de la folie des hommes subjugue par une écriture à couper le souffle, un désespoir et une rage de vaincre étouffante et des personnages qui continuent de hanter le lecteur bien après avoir refermé l’ouvrage. Comme toujours avec Laurent Gaudé, c’est une pépite à découvrir absolument.

Juste, au moment de se quitter, lorsqu’ils se serraient la main, cette phrase que le poète palestinien lui avait dite, les yeux plantés dans les siens : “Ne laissez pas le monde vous voler les mots.” Il le revoit là, avec ce visage de pierre, et c’est la première fois qu’il y repense. C’était des années plus tôt. Et il doit bien avouer qu’il a laissé le monde lui voler les mots. Il n’a été question que de gestes. L’action, qui s’empare de tout, ne laisse plus de place à rien. L’action avec son ivresse et son intensité qui rend tout si fade en comparaison.

Note : 5 sur 5.

Review | Favourite Korean Dramas.

Except for this blogpost, I haven’t written much on here on my love for Asian dramas. It’s a big part of my life though and it makes my bad days better, so today I wanted to share my ultimate favourite Korean dramas.

*sorry for the typo, I realise now it’s spelled « recommendations » in English*

Just Between Lovers

I did not mention Uncontrollably Fond again but some dramas are perfect even if they break your heart. This one has a happy ending… Well as happy as it could be. But you still need to plan for tissues and anger-relief activities.
What happens when a poor, struggling man and a young aspiring architect cross path? A project is going to raise from the cursed ground where an accident took place 15 years ago. Lee Gang Doo and Ha Moon Soo will have to relive those painful memories together to move forward… Or is the trauma too big?
This drama is aesthetically beautiful, the O.S.T. fits perfectly, the atmosphere is heartbreaking but the events? heartwrenching. Lee Jun Ho and Won Jin Ah are breathtaking in their roles. A perfect choice for the cast, truly. There is this slow sense of excruciating pain in their daily lives, you can feel that their flame has been blown out yet, there’s still that tiny little hope when they are with one another. It’s just that sadness, anger and resentment surround them and it is so hard for them to let go of it.
The tragedy is disastrous. This is really a must-watch. It’s so raw, realistic and yet beautiful. This is a slow drama, there is no action, it’s about secrets, repressed feelings, memories, about loss and survival, the guilt of survival and trying to keep living after a trauma. That’s why I think it can be triggering for some people.

Goblin: the Great and Lonely God

TvN produces the most aesthetically pleasing dramas and the cast never disappoints. Goblin is a mix of genres: historical, fantastic, romance. It portrays the loneliness and excruciating pain of immortality with the male lead curse, the burden that comes by cheating your fate’s plans with the female lead… And the sufferings of paying for your past lives mistakes/wrongdoings with the second lead couples.
The sceneries are poetical, autumnal. The o.s.t. is enchanting. There is a sense of nostalgia, of friendship that makes you reluctant to leave that world.
What is truly impressive is how, despite the bitterness of the characters’ fates, there is so much humour in the drama. You are always laughing. Gong Yoo and Lee Dong Wook can’t help but be funny and Kim Go Eun brings that fresh, young and wild energy. Of course, Yoo In Na just makes you question your sexuality all along, she’s so beautiful (watch Queen In Hyun’s Man if you haven’t).
It is also one of the few dramas that I could rewatch again and again without getting bored, it’s so captivating!
Here’s a gif of the best Bromance of the Kdrama world, so much power!

Healer (on Netflix Fr)

Korea has Lee Min Ho’s City Hunter, however, I prefer Ji Chang Wook’s Healer. I already wrote about this drama on here but I always come back to it. Ji Chang Wook plays Healer, a messenger by night, taking dangerous missions; in the day time, he lives a solitary life as his real self Seo Jung Hoo, angry and hungry for revenge.
The story eventually leads him to encounter a young woman, Chae Yeong Shin, played by the impressive Park Min Young, who never disappoints. She plays an energetic, fake-it-until-you-make-it fearless journalist. Their fates are tied. She is obsessed with « him » (his mystery « messenger » self) and as she becomes one of his mission, he decides to enter her life under a false identity.


The drama is full of untold secrets, repressed feelings and conspirations by rich, selfish people. We get to see the world of Journalism, spiced up by big fight scenes with the world of the night messenger and some sweet first love tainted by the losses that they share, the death of their respective father.
When they kiss, the actress did not have to play the dead fish, which is a nice change if you watch many kdrama. They are so funny.
Also, you’ll meet « ahjumma », Kim Mi Kyung, who plays the hacker helping Healer in his mission. This actress plays in so many dramas and she’s always the sweetest!
You will also notice how beautifully catchy the OST is, a real treat! And the wintery settings make it a perfect watch for this time of the year.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (on Netflix Fr)

I’ll try not to gush over the main leads. Truly they are the most beautiful people and together they are the cutest.
Moving on! This drama is the funniest, sweetest, cosiest little world of its own to escape to. It is set at university, the characters are young but not too young that it has to follow high school dramas annoying plot-twists.
It tells their first love story, so it is sweet, funny and cringy in the best way possible.
However, the characters face real struggles and obstacles. It deals with mental health a lot, which is nice to see. Kim Bok Joo, the female lead played by Lee Sung Kyung, goes through burn out, depression, the sense of loss of identity as an athlete. Her father is also suffering from a chronic illness, it is heavy and he needs to be hospitalised regularly which weighs on the mind of Kim Bok Joo. But the most impressive topic the drama deals with, in my opinion, is the view of femininity. Obviously, Bok Joo being a weightlifter, she has to meet a weight goal, she has to follow a heavy diet, mostly meat-based and she has to train a lot. But when she starts thinking of being in a relationship, her strength, the way her body looks because of her career choice, the way the Korean society portrays the ideal girlfriend clashes with all that… It is a heavy burden for someone in their 20s.

Jung Joon Hyung, played by Nam Joo Hyuk, is a swimmer who suffers from anxiety induced by family problems, fear of abandonment and resentment.
As they realise they were classmate years before, Joon Hyung helps Bok Joo to win her crush’s heart, until the situation becomes quite complicated… as well as his feelings. Nam Joo Hyuk’s character is so annoying, so funny, so so so cute, you spend all drama smiling like a foul.

We also get to see the extremely harsh daily life of a gymnast, the eating disorders such a field of work can create when athletes aspire to reach a certain level of competition… How merciless the bullies (teachers and students) are in that field too.
A coming-of-age story, with a sweet and funny romance, beautiful friendship (Lee Joo Young’s character, especially) and the difficulties of growing up. An enchanting O.S.T. as always. To watch without moderation in these wintery times! All these dramas make you think Korea must have harsh winters!!!

Hotel Del Luna (on Netflix Fr)

These are screenshots you can see in better quality on the Twitter account I dedicated to my watching Asian dramas.

I had been away from Kdrama world for awhile, focusing on school etc. and I came back to it when I was told I needed surgery for something important. Kdramas are my escape, just like books. I don’t know, I like to think the universe heard my anxiety and dropped amazing dramas that fit my tastes?
Hotel del Luna stars IU as the female lead, something that sold me right away (if you haven’t watched Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, go fetch some tissues and watch it!).
Initially, the whole hotel thing made me think of my favourite movie Howl’s Moving Castle, which is always a good thing. But then, I was taken by IU’s character charisma, her outfits, her strength, the mystery surrounding her curse and finally, the aesthetics of the drama. Go check the screenshots I took on my Twitter, it’s simply breathtaking!

Obviously, dealing with death, ghosts and punishment, it could not have a happy ending and it made me cry a lot. But it was worth it.
IU took part in the O.S.T., obviously and it’s a beautiful song:

It’s Okay Not To Be Okay (on Netflix Fr)

I then watched It’s Okay Not To Be Okay and oh boy!
To start with, the male lead is Kim Soo Hyun, which you can love in My Love Who Came From the Stars on Netflix Fr. He’s what I call « a constipated Darcy », it’s a whole set of male characters who steals your heart the minute they smile… But it does take a while for them to do so.
I, however, did not know Seo Ye Jo, the female lead but… wow! She is so charismatic, beautiful and hypnotizing. Her character is absolutely intriguing, a breath of fresh air for a female lead: she’s strong, mean and unapologetic. Also, her sense of style is impeccable. I wanted to read the books the character wrote!!

And!!! her mansion!!!! is a Gothic dream!! As I already mentioned, you can find more screenshots on my dedicated Twitter account. The whole drama is an aesthetic dream supported by a mesmerising O.S.T.!

But I was surprised by the subjects the drama dealt with: autism and mental illnesses. Indeed, the male lead’s is autistic and here, the drama does not shy away in its representation of the struggles both for the autistic person and their relatives/guardians. I was stunned. Korea… is not an accepting country, especially not when it comes to mental illness, being different. Your appearance, your reputation, fitting in… It’s everything there. So, this was big! And they mastered it! Every single scene with Moon Sang Tae, the male lead’s brother, wonderfully played by Oh Jung Se, was either heartbreaking or eye-opening. The relationship between the two brothers made me cry every time, the love, the understanding, the communication. I was just a crying mess. How they end up growing and setting healthy boundaries, it’s done so beautifully.
Because it’s true when you’re responsible for someone, your own life is put on hold and it’s unfair on everyone. Moon Gang Tae works in a mental institution too, so both at home and at work he is confronted to those struggles.
And then, Seo Ye Ji’s character barges in their lives and she changes everything. She pushes open difficult doors (the possessiveness of Sang Tae towards Gang Tae) and she also heals some wounds (she gives Sang Tae a career purpose of his own). She receives the love and care she deserves herself but never got. Her character is always on the edge… Anger, breakdown, insanity. The edge. And the drama shows how people blame her constantly for the mistakes of others, how her finding coping mechanisms to survive other people wrongdoings to her is never acknowledged… until she finds Moon Gang Tae. The little family they create those three…
Saying goodbye to them… Well, I cried a lot.

Descendants of the Sun (on Netflix Fr)

If you don’t like it when a male lead is always here to save the female lead, this drama is not for you. It does not mean that Kang Mo Yeon is helpless though, she’s the best surgeon there is! But Yoo Shi Jin is a soldier and when they are sent on a (supposedly) voluntary mission in a country at war, the situation makes it so that Yoo Shi Jin is more comfortable to be in charge than she is.
The story is quite silly in the romance aspect with cliché moves/plots. But we have a wonderful bromance here too! the whole cast’s skills are impressive.
It is a melodrama, so some scenes still break your heart. I don’t want to spoil obviously but one episode just made me bawl my eyes out! It makes you appreciate the work doctors and rescue teams do.
It’s just the perfect drama for an all-nighter when you’re in a romantic mood!

The O.S.T. of this drama is one of the few I actually looked up the lyrics, it’s beautiful and it stays in your head all day! It fits the story perfectly.

What I find even more enjoyable in this drama is how interesting and real the secondary characters felt. I was curious about their lives and struggles too and I found numerous favourite actors.resses among them, such as Kim Ji Won, who is phenomenal in Fight For My Way alongside Park Seo Joon (on Netflix Fr)!

Like Goblin, this drama does not decrease in enjoyment when rewatching! I think rewatching it today would be a little sad… As the main couple got married in real life but announced their divorce recently.

Chicago Typewriter

This is a drama set in two eras: under the Japanese occupation of Korea and in modern-day Korea. We follow the lives of two men and a woman. Their past lives settle the fate for their new one and it’s not a happy one.
The aesthetics are impeccable in this drama, especially if you like writers’ rooms aesthetic, as Yoo Ah Inn’s character is a best-selling author in a slump.
This drama is so well written, the story unfolds beautifully although it is a tragedy. Thankfully parts of their current lives bring lightness to their sad past ones. Alternating between the two eras is easy and natural.
The cast is impressive and they deliver with skills and sincerely. I was not surprised to find Yoo Ah Inn nominated in a movie for the Cannes Festival later on, he steals the scene in this drama.
Chicago Typewriter is one of those dramas you don’t want to leave behind… But it is a TvN drama, after all, so no surprise here!
I’m yet to see a drama with a bad O.S.T. and this one is no exception!

When The Weather Is Fine

Park Min Young as the main lead made me watched it but I did not expect it to become a new favourite! If you’ve watched Healer, Her Private Life or What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim, the actress plays such a different role in here, she’s so reserved, she restricts herself so much. She’s very good!
In this simple slice of life drama, two neighbours cross path again. Min Young’s character, Mok Hae Won, is a cellist, she decides to come back to her hometown after moving to Seoul. She carries a heavy burden and is closed off to other people. Somehow, she seems to always find herself in situations in which her neighbour, a shy bookseller who’s loved her for years, provides help. But Hae Won is only staying until the weather gets better in this remote village, so is it worth the heartache?

This is a slow drama, it portrays the daily lives of simple people living humble simple lives. Some of them are lost, don’t know who they are anymore, which gives this tone of uncertainty, unease and of deep nostalgia. But together maybe the wounds can be reopened and be mended properly, even if it means exposing the ugly truth, facing the harsh reality of family secrets. Huge trigger warning on this one for violence in the flashbacks parts of the story though.

The actors’ performance is breathtaking. I thought I was in for a sweet, atmospheric drama and it ended up being so much deeper, so much better than I anticipated. I didn’t know much going into it and I think it is better this way, appreciating the little surprises of the script… One thing is for sure, I so wish the two main leads will be cast together again. They work so well.
Ever since I finished watching it, I’ve been thinking of restarting it all over again!

Please tell me yours, as there are many others I have loved: they just don’t reach the ultimate rank of honour haha!
xx,
Laurie