Let’s Talk About Paris …

That’s Paris in July, hosted for a second year by Karen at Book Bath and Tamara at Thyme for Tea.

A celebration of the French capital, taking in books, cinema, music, food … and I’m also thinking about a little knitting.

I’ve been pondering books for a while now, and I have come up with far more wonderful possibilities than I could ever read in a single month.

There are the older classics

I have never read any Balzac, but I had to order Cousin Bette from the library when I read Lyn’s wonderful review.

That reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read more Zola for a very long time. I can’t remember whose review I read, but I was inspired to take a another look at Thérezè Raquin. I read it years ago, and I’m sure it is a book that I might see differently now that I am a little older, but I do wonder if it is a winter book rather than a summer one. And then at the weekend I read the news that the writer of the television adaptation of Lark Rise to Candleford is working on an adaptation of The Ladies’ Paradise. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages, I definitely must read it before seeing the (anglicised) adaptation, and the cover of the Oxford World’s Classics edition is so lovely …

And then there’s Dumas and The Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve been slowly working my way through this vast and wonderful tale, and I am sure July will see a little more progress.

There are some wonderful classics from the 20th century.

I read Gigi by Colette for Paris in July last year, but I didn’t get to the second novella that came with it in my edition. So The Cat is a definite possibility for this year.

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes is another book I lined up last year but didn’t get to. So I’m lining it up again.

Tracy mentioned Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner, and so I pulled out my copy. It does look interesting, but I’m not sure. I tend to think that STW is not as good at novels as she is at short stories. But I’d be happy to proved wrong.

I have a few historical novels from the lovely Gallic Books to hand too.

There’s The Châtelet Apprentice by Jean François Parot – crime at the carnival in 18th century Paris. it looks wonderful, and the library has the next book in the series, so I should really read that one before the next one disappears from the shelves.

I have already started Monsieur Montespan by Jean Teulé, that story of the cuckolded husband of Louis XIV’s mistress. I had to put it to one side to catch up with library books and the Crime Fiction Alphabet, but I am eager to pick up the threads of the story again.

Murder in the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner is another historical mystery, and the start of another series. A bookseller is caught up in the investigation of a strange death at the Universal Exposition of 1889 …

I have two books sitting on the dining table, where I keep books that are at the top of my list of priorities.

Conditions of Faith by Alex Miller won awards when it was published ten years ago, and it is being reissued on 1st July. I have only read the first page, but I am already beginning to understand why.

I have read much praise for 13, rue Théresè by Elena Mauli Shapiro, a story inspired by being left in possession of a box of mementoes whose owner had died, and I love the concept.

And I must find time for some non fiction. I have two books waiting on my own shelves, and one that I picked up from the library today.

Liberty by Lucy Moore tells the story of four women caught up in the French Revolution.

When I remembered The Cat I also remembered that I had a copy of Judith Flanders‘ acclaimed biography of Colette.

And I will definitely be reading Coco Chanel by Justine Picardie. I was intrigued by the extracts published in The Telegraph a while back, and I was thrilled to spot this one in the library this morning.

So I have a wonderful pool of books to choose from, and I’m sure I will discover more when Paris in July arrives.

There will be films and music too, but I’ll write about that another day.

Do you have plans for Paris in July? Or recommendations maybe?

Moon Behind Clouds: An Introduction to the life and work of Sir Claude Francis Barry by Katie Campbell

One of my libraries is in an old manor house divided into lots of rooms. It’s lovely going from one room to another to look at different subjects. And often wander onto the Cornish room to browse the shelves dedicated to local artists.

Most of the names are familiar Newlyn school artists: Stanhope Forbes, Laura Knight, Harold Harvey, Gwen John, Walter Langley. And some more contemporary names: Patrick Heron, John Miller, Terry Frost. But one day I spotted a name I didn’t know at all: Claude Francis Barry.

I picked up the book and I was immediately struck by the cover image. And by the quality of the book itself: thick glossy paper, well-bound and lavishly illustrated.

So why hadn’t I heard of him? Who was Claude Francis Barry?

I discovered from the introduction that Barry has been forgotten by many, though he has a small and fervent band of devotees, and little is known about his life.

He was born in 1883 to a wealthy family. But his mother died when he was just two years old and he seems to have had a parting of the ways with his family when he chose not to follow the path they set out for him. he chose instead a life as an artist.

He trained in St Ives with Sir Alfred Bast. His early style had much in common with the St Ives and Newlyn schools, but it evolved into something very different. Something much more colourful, something that owed less to realism and more to impressionism.

He worked in many media and achieved a great deal of success over the years.

But his life seems to have been troubled. He abandoned his first wife and children and, though he remarried, he died alone.

Maybe why he is less remembered – there was no keeper of the flame. And the fact that he couldn’t be slotted into one of the local schools probably didn’t help.

But what about the pictures. Well for me they were a mixed bunch. Some verged on the gaudy. Certainly, for me, the nudes were a little too idealised, a little too brightly coloured.

But I loved many of the landscapes and portraits. Most definitley the work of an artist who should not be forgotten.

I can happily recommend this book. It is well written by somebody who clearly loves Barry’s work and lavishly illustrated.

And the pictures? Not many available online – most seem to be in private collections. . As I’m a little unclear about where copyright lies so I won’t post any images – but if I have piqued your interest you can find a selection here.