Oh, the Places we went and the People we met!

On the seventh day of My Twelve Days of Challenges, I’m bookchatting about challenges rooted in people and places.

First, the Japanese Literature Challenge 4.

It was with mixed feelings that I read my last of Banana Yoshimoto’s translated works: 1999’s Hardboiled and Hard Luck (which was translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich, 2005). I fell in love with Kitchen and although I didn’t enjoy this set of novellas half as much, I am still glad to have read it. Although now I have to wait for something else to be translated. Or, else, finally put those books about learning Japanese that I collected years ago to good use!

How challenging was it? I’d say a 3, because it was such a slim volume. But I think I should have challenged myself a little more in this one. There were several other titles that I’d had in mind. (And if I was truly up for a challenge, I’d add a couple of more into January, because there’s still a month to go!)

Next, and a long way from Japan, the Paris in July Challenge.

I quite enjoyed Cara Black’s first novel, Murder in the Marais (1998), in which readers first meet Aimée Léduc, a female private investigator working in Paris. That first in the series was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best First Novel (1998) and I most enjoyed the links between past and present (she was investigating warcrimes with connections to the 1940s that are still relevant to contemporary atrocities).

And, although I did not enjoy the second, Murder in Belleville (2000), as much as I thought I would, it certainly did bring Paris alive. And, to be fair, it was a really hot July. I spent more time staring into space and sweating than I spent turning pages. I really do plan to spend more time with Aimée and, in the meantime, even a short time spent in Paris in July was lovely indeed. The variety of books that other participants spent time with was really interesting!

How challenging was it? Just one book, and a murder mystery at that, it gets a 1, but only because I kept forgetting to renew the book and ended up paying quite a fine for really no good reason at all.

And now, the people, specifically, Maud Hart Lovelace and Daphne duMaurier.

Like the Paris in July Challenge, the Maud Hart Lovelace Challenge lasts just one month. But that was plenty of time to read Betsy, Tacy (1940) and Betsy Tacy & Tib (1941). Here’s what i thought. (It wasn’t challenging at all: maybe I should have signed up for more than two, but they felt delightful all the same.)

Here’s a list of the other Betsy-Tacy-and-Tib books: Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (1942), Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown (1943), Heaven to Betsy (1945), Betsy in Spite of Herself (1946), Betsy Was a Junior (1947), Betsy and Joe (1948), Betsy and the Great World (1952), and Betsy’s Wedding (1955). And, yes, turns out that, just as Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote more than the Anne Shirley books, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote other books too. Maybe I’ll get to them in the next challenge!

The Dame Daphne Combo requires three installments (books and/or films qualify) and mine included a short story collection, a novel and a film. It felt like the perfect combo.
The Birds and Other Stories
The Flight of the Falcon
“The Birds”

It was actually fascinating watching “The Birds” because it really felt like a completely different artistic work.

With far more of an emphasis on a romance (whereas the story focussed on a married couple, with the husband clearly taking the central role) and far less of a community-under-siege and more about individuals battling the bizarre, it seemed as though Alfred Hitchcock might have read Daphne DuMaurier’s story, waited those ten years and then filmed it without a re-read. But I did love the love-birds (the actual love-birds, not the Hollywood stars). And they weren’t in the original story either!

I might yet read another novel before the challenge officially ends (which isn’t until April 19, 2011…you can still join!); I have several on my shelves. Some of the new Virago paperbacks are too pretty to resist, and I’ve managed to find some older bookclub editions that are charming as well. How challenging were these? I’d give it a 2…the short stories are deliciously creepy (atmospheric and delivering the unexpected plot-wise) and the novel read very quickly. Great entertainment!

Have you participated in some interesting challenges that focussed on different people and places?
No end of them I’m sure…