Good Stuff: Things I’ve Enjoyed This Week

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Welcome to a brand new section on Culture&Stuff, where I share with you, my good and dear reader, some of the treats I’ve come across this week. Don’t be fooled by the graphic, these treats come in the form of things you can find on the internet and in book shops, not sweets. I never share my sweets.

  • ‘A palace of commerce and a 1904 rendez-vous’ on Parisian Fields. The owners of this blog stumbled across a sepia postcard in a market with the enigmatic message – Sunday night – received letter this morning. [I] count on you [to come] on Wednesday. Love to all, Jean – scrawled on the front. The card is postmarked 1904, and features a glorious Parisian building that they didn’t recognise. Most of us would have emitted a vaguely perplexed ‘Hmm’, stuck the postcard on the wall and forgotten about it. That isn’t Parisian Fields’ style though, and this bewitching post uses the postcard as a starting point of a miniature detective story, piecing together the history of the deluxe building. Sadly the identity of Jean, whom he is counting on to come and for what purpose must forever be lost to romantic speculation of the most achingly hopeless sort. This blog has a magnificent eye for telling Parisian detail, and benefits (unlike this blog – would it were not so!) from frequent, actual visits to Paris.
  • The blog Titillating Tidbits About the Life and Times of  Marie Antoinette has this piquant introduction to the deeply intriguing life of Chevalier Saint Georges, intimate of Marie Antoinette “deadly swordsman, skilled equestrian, gifted musician, and unmatched lover”, whose achievements were made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was born in Guadeloupe, the offspring of an illicit encounter between a French slave owner and a 16-year-old slave.
  • I also just finished reading The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, an epic, poetically beautiful novel that creates a thoroughly convincing, living, breathing, sweating version of 18th-century Nagasaki. The dialogue especially feels authentic and alive, without that stiff, museumy ‘period’ feeling so often created in historical novels. By turns an ethereal love story and a rollicking adventure, this is a book that rewards patience and tolerance of some stylistic quirks to deliver one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve read in a long time. Plus, the English hardback version is so beautiful, it’s worth having just as an adornment to your shelf.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, which is high praise indeed for this handsome volume. It’s even nicer in real life, with lovely shiny bits.