Re-Read: The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)

The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. I read the German translation (Der Meister und Margarita) by Thomas Reschke.
Finished on: 5.2.2020
[Here’s my last review.]

Moscow, 1930. The writers Berlioz and Besdomny are in the middle of a discussion about the existence, or better yet actual non-existence of Jesus, when they are interrupted by a stranger who tells them a story of how he was present during Pontius Pilate’s trial of Jesus. Then the stranger goes on to predict Berlioz rather gruesome death, which promptly happens. Turns out, said stranger is actually the devil. In the guise of the black magician Voland, he and his associates came to wreak havoc in Moscow.

This is actually the third time I read Master and Margarita, and it’s probably the time it worked best for me. But I’d still say, it’s far from being a favorite of mine and it will probably really have been the last time I read it. (Why did I read it three times ? Well, the first time I was too young, so I wanted to read it a second time to really get it. And the third time now was for a Soviet lit class at uni.)

The book cover showing the shadowy profile of a cat.
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Re-Read: The Spellman Files (Lisa Lutz)

The Spellman Files is the first novel in the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz.
Finished on: 31.12.2019
[Here’s my first review.]

After a rough youth, Izzy Spellman has found her perfect job, her calling: she’s a private investigator to her very core. The only drawback is that it’s the family business. Her parents are private investigators. Her little sister Rae is only fourteen but already training very hard to be one. Only her brother chose a different way to go: he became a lawyer – and a perfectly law-abiding one at that. But when Izzy’s parents set Rae to spy on Izzy (to find out the identity of her new boyfriend), Izzy has had it with the other Spellmans and she leaves the agency and her home. But when Rae goes missing, she can’t stay away anymore.

The Spellman Files were a pleasant surprise discovery for me and when I learned that it was actually the first novel in a series, it was an even better surprise. But it took me a while to get the other books in the series, so I decided to re-read the first one before getting around to the others. And even on the second go-through, it’s the perfect holiday read in the absolute best way.

The book cover showing a stylized detective with a  magnifying glass.
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Re-Read: The Loop (Nicholas Evans)

The Loop is a novel by Nicholas Evans. I read the German translation Im Kreis des Wolfes by Bernhard Robben.
Finished on: 5.8.2017

Hope, Montana is shaken – the wolves have returned to the woods around town, and the first cattle has been taken. Unofficial town leader Buck Calder will not have it – he just wants those wolves gone. But there are species protection laws and the local specialists send for Helen Ross, a biologist specialized in wolves, to try and figure things out. Helen is in need of a change of scenery and jumps at the chance, clashing pretty much immediately with Calder, but finding an unexpected ally in Calder’s young son Luke.

I read The Loop when I was a teenager (after having loved Evans’ The Horse Whisperer) and was very much taken with it back then. Reading it about 15 years later, it doesn’t quite hold up to my fond memories of it, but it is a decent read.

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Re-Read: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel by Margaret Atwood.
Finished on: 25.4.2017

Offred is a handmaid in Gilead, which used to be known as the USA. Being a handmaid means she is assigned to an important family where her job is to become pregnant and reproduce for the family, as many people struggle with fertility issues. Women in general are severely limited in their rights in Gilead. But Offred managed to hold on to a last shred of wanting more than her assigned lot.

I read The Handmaid’s Tale in school many years ago and some of its imagery burned themselves into my brain. But I don’t think I appreciated the book for all that it offers at that time. I am pretty sure that I understood and liked it more reading it now.

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Re-Read: Trainspotting (Irvine Welsh)

Trainspotting is a novel by Irvine Welsh.
Finished on: 23.2.2017

Renton, Sick Boy and Spud are friends. At least as much as you can be friends with anybody you share a heroin addiction with. And don’t necessarily like each other all that much. As they tumble through Edinburgh, alternatively looking to buy the next hit and to kick the habit altogether, their paths cross with the same people over and over again, people like the violent Begbie or the drunk Second Prize. They all struggle with their own problems but at least they are not stuck in the wheel of capitalism. Or that’s what Renton tells himself.

Trainspotting is at times funny, at times simply disgusting and it has surprising moments of senisitivity and clarity buried along the way. It’s not the best book ever, but it is very strong.

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Re-Read: Coraline (Neil Gaiman)

Coraline is a children’s novel by Neil Gaiman. My edition comes with illustrations by Dave McKean.
Finished on: 23.11.2016
[Here’s my first “review”.] [Here’s my review of the movie adaptation.]

Coraline Jones moves with her parents to a new house. Her parents are always busy so Coraline is left to explore things alone. One day she discovers a hidden door in her house and when she goes through, she meets her Other Mother, who is everything a child could hope for and more. But her Other Mother has buttons for her eyes. She wants Coraline to stay, but for that, Coraline will need to give up her eyes as well.

I did a small analysis of Coraline (book and movie version) for uni, so I re-read and re-watched both. And I really enjoyed reading the book again, even though I look at some things more critically now than when I read it the first time.

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Re-Read: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha [Volume 1] (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is a novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. I read the translation by Ludwig Braunfels.
Finished on: 13.7.2016

Alonso Quixano is a nobleman who loves to read novels about chivalry and all kinds of adventures involving knights. He has read so many of them, they are starting to screw with his mind and he starts thinking of himself as a knight. Deciding that he has to go out and find adventures, maidens to rescue and villains to conquer, he leaves his niece and housekeeper behind and transforms in Don Quixote. Together with his horse Rocinante and the freshly hired squire Sancho Pansa and his donkey, they’re off to great things.

It has been many years that I read Don Quixote [Volume 1 and 2], so when it was announced that it was part of my curriculum at uni, I knew that I had to read it again. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to that, I have to admit, since I remembered that I didn’t like it a whole lot, especially not the first Volume. Re-reading it now didn’t really change that.

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Re-Read: The Year of Our War (Steph Swainston)

The Year of Our War is the first novel by Steph Swainston and the first book in the Fourlands Series.
Finished on 18.3.2016
[Here’s my first review.]

The Fourlands are at war with the (man-sized) Insects that threaten to overrun the entire kingdom. King Dunlin leads the attacks, supported and advised by the Emperor and his group of 50 Immortals, all the best in their respective fields. One of said Immortals is Jant, the messenger – a position he has because his father was Awian and his mother Rhydanne, which gives him wings and a light enough frame to actually fly, the only person to be able to. But by now, it is the only reason he still has the position as he is also incredibly self-centered and addicted to the drug cat and the Shift to another world that comes with it. As things become worse, Jant will have to make some choices.

Since it took me a little longer to get to the sequel to The Year of Our War (and to acquire the third and fourth Fourlands books as well, since they’re sadly out of print), I decided I’ll just see it as the perfect opportunity to re-read the first one again. And I still loved it.


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Re-Read: Zwei Wochen im Mai [Two Weeks in May] (Christine Nöstlinger)

Zwei Wochen im Mai is the second autobiographical novel by Christine Nöstlinger. [Here’s my review of the first one, Maikäfer flieg.] The title literally means Two Weeks in May, but to my knowledge the book wasn’t translated.
Finished on: 6.3.2016

World War II has just ended and Christl and her family are slowly trying to get back to normal. That means, among other things, that Christl can go back to school and that she can take piano lessons now – even if she hates them. For Christl, though, what is more important than any of that is the plan she hatches with her best friend (even though he sometimes has that look and then you need to avoid him) Rudi to come into a little bit of money, and of course the dreamy Hansi.

I remembered Zwei Wochen im Mai much more strongly than I remembered Maikäfer flieg. It just made more of an impression. And also on re-reading as an adult, I would say that it is the stronger book of the two (although Maikäfer flieg was by no means weak). In any case I enjoyed it greatly.

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Re-Read: Maikäfer flieg [Fly Away Home] (Christine Nöstlinger)

Maikäfer flieg is an autobiographical novel by Christine Nöstlinger. It was translated as Fly Away Home; literally it means “Melolontha, fly”, which is the first line of a children’s rhyme.
Finished on 3.3.2016

World War II. 8-year-old Christl spends a lot of time with her grandparents as her mother is hunting for food and necessities in Vienna. Her father is fighting. Or rather, he is in the hospital with a shot up leg. As the bombings in the city get worse and the grandparents’ apartment is damaged, Christl’s mother hatches a plan to head to a house at the city’s edge where she used to clean. The owner of said house has fled and needs somebody to take care of it anyway. So, Christl, her sister and her mother make their way there, leaving behind her grandparents who are unwilling to move.

I read Maikäfer flief (and its sequel Zwei Wochen im Mai – Two Weeks in May) when I was a child, probably around the age Christl was in the book and then again a bit later. But since then I haven’t re-read. Now with a movie adaptation coming out, I thought I’d read it again. Of course, my perspective has changed quite a bit, but I found the book engaging both when I was a child (although I liked the sequel better) and now.

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