Thursday, December 31, 2015

Gilded Chalet

Although I love Switzerland, that is not the main reason, I adored reading The Gilded Chalet (off-piste in Literary Switzerland) by Irishman Padraig Rooney who has lived there for the last 15 years.

Although I read the most of the writers mentioned in The Gilded Chalet as required reading in university, I haven't touched any of them for years. My studies were of the works themselves not whom they were as people or the backdrops that gave rise to their work.

The book makes fascinating reading because it puts the lives of literary greats together with the country of chalets, watches and chocolate.

It did help that the first part about Jean-Jacques Rousseau covered his time in Môtiers, the 600-person, 6,000 cow village where I spent 1990-1993 having just moved from Boston. He is so accurate in his description that I could almost hear the cow bells and feel the spray from the waterfall that Rousseau loved and near where I picnicked with my Japanese chins Albert and Amadeus.

Switzerland is great for putting up plaques about who lived in what building and when. Only last month did I come across the plaque where Joseph Conrad had spent time.

What makes the book sing is Rooney's combination of descriptive and sometimes humorous writing, the facts about the writers interwoven with conditions and movements of their time, quotes both from and about the writers.

Literature lovers, history lovers and those that would like to get to know Switzerland from the comfort of their chairs in whatever country they may be living, would find this a fun read.

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