La Belle Sauvage (2017) by Philip Pullman

Did you see the 2007 film Golden Compass with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman?

The movie tanked considering the US$180 million cost.

But the books are great. It was based on Pullman’s His Dark Materials series:

La Belle Sauvage is a fantasy novel by Philip Pullman published 2017, the first volume in a planned trilogy named The Book of Dust. Set around 12 years before the start of His Dark Materials

Reviews have been great for the start of the prequel.

I’d agree. It’s well worth reading.

My only criticism is the same one I have with all fantasy: deus ex machina. The plot twists are unexpected appearances of magical things unrestrained by any logic or rules.

It always seems a bit cheap, to me.



visiting friends in Switzerland

4 Calgarians got together in Switzerland.

Meet-ups like this on the road are always fun.

Tam had come to Europe with her daughter who’s doing a semester in Spain.

Cal and Maria are starting their 3rd year living in small villages near Bern.

The first two years they lived in Solothurn, a lovely place popular with Swiss but almost unknown by foreign tourists. Population is about 17,000 with 20% of those being resident foreign nationals.

St. Ursus Cathedra, Solothurn.

We enjoyed a terrific meal in Solothurn. It  was Tam’s farewell. She flew home to Seattle same day.

I stayed the night with Cal and Maria, learning much about Switzerland. It’s a unique place which many other nations should study.

Cal showed me a fantastic book called Living and Working in Switzerland: A Survival Handbook by David Hampshire. It’s hilarious, must reading for anyone moving there to work.

Murial Spark – Loitering with Intent

Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent (1981) was published when she was 64.

The novel is written in the first person, framed as a memoir, as Fleur Talbot, the celebrated writer, looks back, “in the fullness of [her] years”, to the weeks and months of winter 1949-50, when she was working on her first novel, living in a bedsit, supporting herself by working in secretarial jobs.

Guardian review

It is an excellent book. With an excellent plot.

If you are a fan of literature over fiction, I recommend it. The themes are still important in 2018.

It was made into a film in 2014. It’s 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

The Snowman (NorwegianSnømannen, 2007) is a novel by Norwegian crime-writer Jo Nesbø. It is the seventh entry in his Harry Hole series. …

Looking through cold cases, Hole realises that he is tracking Norway’s first known serial killer. …

I’d heard great things about Nesbø. He is an excellent author.

The book is complex and very suspenseful. I appreciated all the main characters.

One criticism. I’d say the book is about 30% too long. 30% too complicated. It would have been stronger if more succinct.

The Snowman (2017 film) should have been excellent. But critics panned it. I can’t imagine how they bungled adapting this fascinating story.

It’s 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Storyteller of Marrakesh: A Novel

Hassan, the “storyteller” of Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s … novel, is more than just a narrator: he is a guide, a witness, a showman, a chronicler of Moroccan legend and lore.

His stage is the central square of Marrakesh, Djemaa el Fna, where the myriad wonders of this great, red-walled city surround and inspire him. …

On this particular night, however, Hassan is concerned with only one mystery: the story of a foreign couple, a beautiful French-American woman and her Indian partner, who vanished from the square one evening a few years earlier. …

NY Times Book Review

I read the book in Morocco, enjoying the hectic main square each evening.

This is an ambitious book. A modern “Thousand and One Nights”. But I can’t say the mystical style worked for me. It has mixed reviews on GoodReads.

The author is from India. But he did a good job of giving the rest of us foreigners a bit of the flavour of the nation.

Here is one of the last real storytellers. I didn’t see any in the square itself. It’s too noisy in 2018.

Abderrahim El Makkouri