Over past the few weeks I have made many wonderful discoveries that have given me real joy and added value to my life. I know that these ‘Freya Chooses…’ posts are largely personal to me, but I so enjoy reading similar kinds of blog posts, where bloggers write about what they have been loving recently, or about small ways in which they have been able to improve the quality of their lives; I love taking inspiration from other people and am just a bit nosy about the kinds of things that make others happy! So, here are just a few of the things that I have LOVED throughout the past month!
Bonjour Tristesse & A Certain Smile, by Françoise Sagan
I actually had this book of two short novellas by Sagan sitting on my bookshelf for a few years without realising it! A moment came about recently when I had finished my current book and was waiting for the new one to arrive. At a loss, with nothing to read, I turned to my bookshelf and found this absolute gem! I really didn’t know anything about Sagan and her writing, but I fell in love with these stories, which were published when she was only nineteen!!
The first, Bonjour Tristesse, is probably her most famous work. It is about the relationship between a daughter and her father, who live a carefree and somewhat hedonistic lifestyle, full of love, sexuality, passion, and contemporary political attitudes. This all gets sharply interrupted when the girl’s father suddenly decides to remarry, creating huge conflicts that result in some shocking consequences for both characters. Although I adored this novel, it was the second one in the book, A Certain Smile, which I totally devoured. In many ways it is a quieter, slower, more intense story and for me, this is what drew me in and got me immediately hooked. It is about a young French girl, living and studying in Paris, full of her own ideas about life and love, although a little bored with her own lover and situation. An older, married man comes into her life and shows her emotions and feelings which dramatically change the direction of her life, in many complicated ways.
These stories are simply beautiful, witty in that charming French way and very, very emotional. They are so sweet, yet they have a way of tugging on your heart. I’m so glad I found this book on my shelf, and I definitely recommend getting a copy!
I recently got the chance to visit Seattle for the first time, and I just loved the city! I wanted to write about it here as, for me, I never really considered Seattle as serious contender for one of the cities at the top of my list of places to travel in the U.S. – those spots are always filled by cities like New York or San Francisco. But I have to say that this is SUCH a fantastic city, and if you have the opportunity to visit the States, definitely consider taking a trip there!
Seattle is a very vibrant city that has a drive; it’s busy, it has a hustle and bustle, everybody is out there, doing their own stuff. There is a lot going on, in its business as well as culturally, but it doesn’t have the chaotic, stressed feeling of New York! Seattle has all the ‘busy-ness’ but still with that wonderful, relaxed, west-coast vibe, and it’s just great. There are so many cool little corners in the city too; great markets, coffee shops, bookstores, cool little international shops, and many, many, fantastic micro-breweries (if you are a beer fan, this city will be your heaven). And all of this is set in an incredibly beautiful part of the world; the mountainous backdrop and ocean views follow you all around the city.
Dvořák Cypresses, Performed by Miró Quartet
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to hear a performance given by some of my current FAVOURITE musicians, the Miró Quartet, of a piece I had never heard of: a set of songs called ‘Cypresses’, arranged for string quartet, by czech composer, Antonin Dvořák. This was originally a song cycle for voice and piano, set to poems by Czech poet, Gustav Pfleger-Moravsky, that Dvořák composed when he was just 24 years old and later transcribed for string quartet. At this time in Dvořák’s life, he had fallen deeply in love with one of his students – a love which, unfortunately, was not returned. Although I have not heard entire work in its original form, I found the string quartet arrangement to be incredibly beautiful and totally capturing of Dvořák’s sad and passionate feelings of unrequited love. There were so many truly special moments in the music, moments of darkness and light, intimate melodies, sounds coming from within the heart of the quartet – this was truly spellbinding. It seems weird to me that this is a work that is not performed more often… but I am so glad that I got the chance to hear it and I really recommend looking it up if you don’t know it! My particular favourite was song/poem number 9:
‘Thou Only, Dear One’
Oh, you my soul’s only dear one,
Who will live in my heart forever:
My thoughts circle around you,
Even though cruel fate separates us.
Oh, If I were a singing swan,
I would fly to you, and with my last breath,
Sing my heart out to you,
Ah, with my last breath.
What beautiful words, and music! On that note, I have to also say that the Miró Quartet are absolutely wonderful, as people and as musicians. They live and breathe the music in a way that make it come alive and I found this very inspiring. This is a quartet of big personalities which shine through in their playing; their audiences love them and it’s easy to see why. I can’t wait to work with them again in a couple of weeks time!