The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

“Don’t panic”

This is going to be a short review.

I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while I was on holidays in Spain, in between of beach strolls, swimming pool fun and a bit of sightseeing, so I didn’t bother much with highlighting my favourite lines or writing down my thoughts on it. Pity, because this book is full of unconventional wisdom. It was also fun to read – probably the funniest book I’ve read this year – and I was often trying not to laugh too loud while my children napped beside me, which made it a perfect holiday read. I am only sad that I read it in Spanish because I had the feeling that the language was very witty and it would have been even more fun in its original English. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad translation and I truly enjoyed it.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first broadcast as a radio comedy show in 1978 and it didn’t appear in book form until a few years later. It is then questionable whether this is a classic or not, partly because it is such a recent work, and partly because it is not your typical novel. After all, it used to be a radio show and as such it is mostly dialogue-driven. It is, I think, a canonical science fiction work, and for me that was reason enough to include it on my Classics Club list.

Arthur Dent is the last human alive after his friend Ford Prefect takes him for a galactic ride seconds before the Earth is destroyed to make place for a galactic motorway. From then on they’ll hitchhike the galaxy meeting all kind of peoples and having adventures alongside a few other outcasts, including a depressive robot, the president of the galaxy and his girlfriend, a former mathematician who had previously escaped Earth. And that’s the end of the spoilers, which I hope are not too many.

I had watched the film several years ago but I didn’t really remember much about it, so it was really like reading it for the first time (which I was) and without any prior knowledge. And that was great. What I remember about the film, however, was the quirky opening scene and how surprised I was to recognise the setting because I had been there before, several times. I was almost proud to realised that it had been filmed in my home island of Tenerife, at the Loro Parque, a zoo of sorts which features dolphins, seals and killer whales among many other animals (they keep adding more and more animals and plant species and working to preserve the natural habitat of many of those). And their dolphins were the stars of the opening scene of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which you can view here.

I would actually like to watch that film again now. And the next four books in this series, which Douglas Adams described as a trilogy of five books, are now on my tbr list.

Have you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or seen the film? Any thoughts to share?

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Cien años de soledad, by Gabriel García Márquez

“The secret of a good old age is nothing more than a honest pact with solitude.” *

A Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad) is Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece and quite probably the second most important novel written in the Spanish language. It is also the most recognisable landmark of the South American magical realism literary movement, which started in the 1950s. I think that these three facts – being the brainchild of a Nobel Prize winner (not that this matters much nowadays), being a canonical work of Spanish literature, and being the embodiment of a literary genre – are more than enough to consider it a classic.

I first read A Hundred Years of Solitude ten years ago while I was living on my own for the first time in rainy Belgium. Uninteresting details, I know, but looking back, I think those were the perfect conditions to tackle such a dense novel: long, lonely evenings inside while it poured outside. To be honest, I don’t remember much of my experience reading A Hundred Years of Solitude back then or the impression it left me. The internet, however, remembers and funnily enough this was the very first book I blogged about ten years ago in an old, random blog that I discontinued shortly after leaving Belgium and have kept private as a sort of souvenir of my young crazy years. Apparently, this is what I thought about A Hundred Years of Solitude back then:

When I started reading I had no idea what the book was about, so at first I got totally lost in a non-sense maze of Aurelianos and José Arcadios, but somehow the reading managed to make sense in the end. Two things got my attention from the beginning. First, the closeness of the book to an erotic novel, no joke, it really surprised me to be reading in almost every chapter the sexual adventures of certain member of the family Buendía. And secondly, the fact that magic had such an important place all along the story. Then I found out that this book actually epitomised the concept known as magic realism that developed, specially in the South America related literatures, around the 50s.”

Funny. I cannot really tell whether I liked it or not; I think I didn’t dislike it, which is enough for such a cryptic novel.

Fast forward ten years and I can tell you that I really enjoyed reading A Hundred Years of Solitude this second time around. I am glad I included in my list of classics to read for The Classics Club. And I am certain that I will reread it sometime in the future. Perhaps because I was vaguely aware of what to expect I didn’t find it so hard to get into the story this time. And perhaps because I am older and more learnt I could get more out of my reading.

Granted, A Hundred Years of Solitude might not be for everyone. First, because it is a magical realist novel and if you don’t enjoy the beautiful nonsense that magical realism brings along, then there’s no way you’ll make sense of A Hundred Years of Solitude. And second, because it deals with many controversial topics such as incest, the futility of war, the miseries of human nature, and yes, there’s a lot going on under the sheets (or over them, as it is supposed to be way too hot in the fictional tropical region where the story takes place). Once more I was candidly surprised by how often the story took an erotic turn. But I also understand better how this serves the plot. After all, A Hundred Years of Solitude is a novel about life and this is all part of life; it is a story about a family – the great-great-grandparents and their offspring – and this is how children are made. Did we need to know? Probably not, but it was García Márquez’s choice to tell his story this way.

A Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the Buendía family and the fictional town of Macondo. Those two history are closely related, as the town was founded by José Arcadio Buendía and it’s bound to disappear as the last descendant of the family dies. During the hundred years that Macondo exists and the Buendía family lives, the town goes from isolated village in the jungle to a metropolis with a booming economy, and the Buendías take part in all key moments of Macondo’s brief history, which mirrors the history of many Central and South American countries, albeit very loosely. And that’s A Hundred Years of Solitude in a nutshell; actually there’s a lot more to it but I’m keeping it simple. Nevertheless, I was impressed by how complex the story is in all its simplicity and how this could easily be the story of the world condensed in 500 pages, and not only that of Macondo and the Buendía family in a hundred years.

Two things that caught my attention while reading were how often the word solitude popped up throughout the novel and how many words there were whose meaning I did not know. In fact, I think I have never read a book with so many words unknown to me despite having read this book in Spanish, which is my mother tongue. Funny, perhaps my brain is tricked into ignoring words I don’t know when I’m reading in English but not in Spanish … dunno. Anyway, the language was beautiful. García Márquez has often been touted as a terrific storyteller and he surely is, and also brilliant at wording. So here’s another quote to end this post.

“The world will be definitely f***ed off when people travel in first class and literature in a freight car.” *

*Translations are mine; I hope they make sense.

The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!”

And so the adventure continues.

Frodo has parted with the ring and his faithful Sam. The rest of the fellowship is scattered and hesitant about what to do next. Aragorn takes the lead and his words begin to sound as wise as those of Gandalf. And as solemn as those of the kings of old.

The Two Towers is the second part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It contains books three and four, which focus on the adventures of Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and company, and on Frodo and Sam’s long and treacherous way to Mordor, respectively. If you have read my previous review of The Fellowship of the Ring or this post on my thoughts on Tolkien, you probably know that I am reading The Lord of the Ring for the first time ever but that I have watched the films several times. Therefore, I am not expecting any big surprises in here regarding plot, which is always a pity but that doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable.

Once again, I am amazed at how good Tolkien’s writing is: his wording is precise and beautiful, his storytelling compelling, his world-building is rich and realistic and his characterisation, particularly in the Lord of the Rings, is very solid. All the characters in the fellowship feel real; they are their own persons with their unique personalities and back histories. All these details bring the story alive and make it somehow new, in spite of being an old acquaintance from the films. In fact, some parts which I always found rather dreadful and slow in the films, such as the adventures of Merry and Pippin with the Ents, could easily be my favourite part in this part of the trilogy. Same about Frodo’s misadventures with Gollum. And I also liked Faramir even more than I already did in the films. He presents himself almost like a Renaissance man who likes books more than war but always does what he has to do. All in all, I think that The Two Towers makes a much better book than film (even though all three Peter Jackson’s films are terrific).

So, another Tolkien read, another Tolkien loved. And now onto The Return of the King. And again, let Aragorn’s words set the tone for what’s yet to come.

“Yet dawn is ever the hope of men.”

My favourite classic: Little Women

Hi all!

Today’s post is my response to the monthly meme of The Classics Club. They have been doing this meme thing on and off since they started their blog and they have just brought it back after a long hiatus. I joined The Classics Club earlier this year and I am glad to be taking part in these conversations about all things classic. So here we go!

This month’s question is: What is your favourite classic book? Why?

That’s a tough question; there are so many books out there. So many good books. So many good classic books. There quite a few I have read recently that I really liked and could easily become a favourite. Shakespeare’s King Lear, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre or George Orwell’s 1984 are the ones that come to my mind. Plus The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien. However, I’m going to stick to my childhood favourite and I’m going to tell you that my favourite classic is Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. This is a rather tricky thing to do considering that I haven’t read this book since I was 18 or so and I am now 33. So my memories of it might be anything but trustworthy, besides immature.

But I love Little Women. It is such a beautiful, heart-warming story. Little Women tells the story of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, who live with their mother while waiting for their father to return from the Civil War that bled the US in the 1860s. Each sister has a very different personality and that’s part of the appeal of the book. Almost everyone can identify with any or some of the sisters. Furthermore, the book addresses some sensible topics that were almost revolutionary for its time, such as women’s emancipation or marriages made for love.

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It’s been a very long time since I read Little Women but I have watched some of its films adaptations as well, so I think I have a rather good recollection of the story. Some lines that have particularly stuck with me are Amy’s “we will all grow up and it’d be better if we knew what we’d want by then” and Beth’s “I have always remained behind you but now I am ahead of all of you and I’m not afraid”. Okay, I have just quoted these out of my mind and I don’t remember the exact words (plus I have translated them from Spanish) so it might be that the original words are nothing like this or that they are taken from the films and not from the books. But if you know the story you might guess what I mean.

Anyway, I listed Little Women as one of the fifty classics I want to read to The Classics Club so I will be rereading it soonish though I think I will wait until December, when Christmas time is near. I’m very looking forward to see what I’ll find in Little Women this time, many years later.

And what about you? What is your favourite classic and why?

 

Five on Friday: what I’m reading now

Happy Friday! Especially happy for us as we’re enjoying a long weekend which started yesterday. So plenty of time for relaxing and reading, children permitting.

I just finished reading The Two Towers by J. R.R. Tolkien and I totally loved it! I don’t know about you but I usually find that I need some time off before starting another big book right after finishing one. It doesn’t mean that I’m not reading, quite on the contrary, it is usually the time when I pick up on the bits and pieces of books and magazines that I haven’t finished because I was too invested in whatever I was reading before and I didn’t want to stop or deviate from it.

Anyhow, these are the books that I’m reading on and off now. Quite an eclectic mix: a book on vikings and their raids, a collection of Celtic stories, a couple of children books, and a guide to Scotland because I’m always thinking about the next holiday. Or in this case, about the holiday after the next one.

One

Beyond the Northlands, by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough.

Two

Lonely Planet’s Scotland travel guide.

Three

Celtic Tales: Fairy Tales and Stories of Enchantment from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Wales.

Four

The Usborne Book of Illustrated tales of King Arthur.

Five

Linneas Jahrbuch.

Five on Friday: things I’m loving right now

It’s Friday and that means it is time for another five on Friday post. To be honest, though, I may not continue posting them regularly because I am rather busy this month and then we’re going to Spain for a couple of weeks in June (yay!) so I might reduce blogging to a minimum. Life is for living, right?

The weather changed drastically this week and we went from sunny hot days to rainy chilly ones. And as a result I ha a sore throat for most of the week and now it’s my daughter’s turn to be sickish. But we’ll get through it. And here are five things that definitely help.

One

Strawberries

I LOVE strawberries! They’re probably my favourite fruit and I’m always happy when they make their entrance in the produce aisle of the supermarket. In fact, I think the world would be a better place is there were strawberries all year round.

Two

Dining al fresco

We had a rather large balcony and every now and then, weather permitting, we take our dinner out and enjoy a meal outside. The children love it!

Three

Homemade flavoured water

If I had to choose a favourite drink it would be water (tea would be a close runner-up). I drink mostly water during the day and only seldom I drink fruit juice or milk and never sodas or carbonated drinks. Ever. Recently I have been mixing things up and adding a slice of lemon and some mint leaves to a jug of cold water and it tastes amazingly good. Plus it brings me nice memories of my favourite tea room in Dublin where water was served just like that in a vintage jug.

Four

Dresses and light clothes

After wearing a black coat over black trousers and cardi for most of the winter I am more than happy to add some colour and variety to my wardrobe. It really cheers me up and I feel lighter when I’m not coated in one or two kilos of winter gear. Okay, I may be exaggerating a little; it is not that cold anymore around here. But really, I feel much more cheerful since I can put on my ballet flats on and wear a dress.

Five

BBQ season

I’m not that much into BBQ or even into big chunks of meat these days BUT barbecue time means that my boyfriend will be doing most of the cooking while I only need to boil some potatoes, make a dressing and relax.  And that’s what most Saturdays is going on around here.

Are you a spring/summer person? Anything special you do at this time of the year?

Happy weekend!

Five on Friday: my favourite cookbooks

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you but one of the things I like about the weekends is that I have more time for baking or to try some new exciting recipes. However, we have started the BBQ season rather early this year and have already enjoyed a couple of weekends dining al fresco.

Anyhow, today I’m bringing you my favourite cookbooks, those whose pages I flick through time and again in search for something new to jazz up my dinners. This post was inspired by this series of posts at The Bookworm Chronicles. So if you’re ever in need of some inspiration to freshen up your table, you can take a look at her blog. Or simply dive into one of the cookbooks below.

One

Ministry of Food, by Jamie Oliver.

This is definitely my go-to cookbook. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have cooked almost one-third of its recipes.

People often tend to think that Jamie’s cooking style is complicated but I can tell you it is not. At least not when you’re letting his Ministry of Food cookbook guide you. It is so uncomplicated that it even gives you directions to do something as simple as frying or boiling an egg. And yet, simple as it is, most of its recipes are delicious. I swear by JO’s Meatloaf. Or Broccoli and Pesto Pasta, if you prefer some veggie option.

Two

One-Pound Meals, by Miguel Barclays.

Now, this new addition to my library has quickly become a close second favourite. I was suspicious at first because I bought it blindly at Amazon where it was heavily discounted. I was sceptical when I first glanced through it because most recipes seemed to have the same four or five ingredients over and over again. So how could there be so much variety when always using the same ingredients? But I gave it a chance, nonetheless, and let me tell you that I wasn’t disappointed at all. In a couple of months I have tried and repeated a handful of recipes and I loved them. Not only because they’re good but because they’re simple. The kind of food you can put on the table in less than half an hour. And that’s much appreciated when you have two hungry toddlers running around. One of my new favourites are Gnocchi with Mushrooms or its simple Caesar Salad.

Three

Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Now, this is the only cookbook in this list that I don’t own. But I borrowed it once from the library and loved it! IT has been on my wish list ever since. Unfortunately, I didn’t like its follow-up, More Plenty, that much because I found most recipes really complicated and using weird ingredients which are not so easy to find. I guess there’s a limit to simple fulfilling vegetarian meals. But really, Plenty was great and some of the tasty things I cooked from it were Aubergine Croquettes, Mushroom Lasagne or Aubergines with Buttermilk and Pomegranate.

Four

Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great, by Danielle Walker.

I am not that much into paleo diet but if I had to recommend one paleo cookbook it would be this one (or maybe the next one, I’m not 100% sure about that).

Against All Grain was the first spin-out of the blog of the same name and it topped the New York Times’s Bestsellers lists. What I like about it is that is has many mouthwatering recipes that can be cooked by us mere mortals using normal ingredients. Like its Curry Chicken Salad or Toddler Approved Curry. Paleo baking, on the other hand is just not for me, because it usually uses not so common ingredients and I simply don’t have the need to cut out grains out of my life (thank God for our good health). Nevertheless, I have given its Zucchini and Banana Breads a go and they were good.

Five

Eat, Drink Paleo Cookbook, by Irena Macri.

Another very dow-to-earth paleo cookbook. Much like with Against All Grains, what I like about this one is the simplicity of its recipes and the common ingredients it calls for. Furthermore, this one has really fresh recipes unlike what’s seen in most paleo blogs and sites out there. I think that the background of the blogger really shines through: Irena is Ukrainian but has long lived in Australia and is often wandering around Europe. And that unconventional mix really influences her cooking and sets her apart from most paleo cooks who simply try to reinvent American classics.

Some great recipes to try are her Cabbage Rainbow Salad, her Asparagus with Mushroom Dressing or her Chicken & Mushroom Stew.

I really hope you enjoy this post. And because this is a topic close to my heart (and tummy) I’d love to hear back from you. What are your favourite cookbooks? Any recommendation?

Thanks for your comments and happy Friday!