The 19th Wife

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Read 16/10/2017-30/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Onward in my tour of US authors by state, and to Utah. All that I know about Utah is it has a Salt Lake and is the home state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. All that I know about the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, is gleaned from being an archivist and having watched a couple of episodes of Big Love once. Continue reading

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My Ántonia

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Read 08/10/2017-16/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I chose this book for Nebraska in the US Road Trip reading challenge that The Reader’s Room ran from July to September. I didn’t manage to complete the challenge, but I’ve decided to carry on because I’m enjoying discovering new-to-me American authors. I hadn’t heard of Willa Cather. My Ántonia has a 34-page introduction in the Oxford World’s Classics edition that I borrowed from the library, which I skipped to read the novel, but then didn’t return to because I didn’t want someone else’s academic critique to spoil the book with earnest dullness. Maybe it wasn’t dull at all. (It looked dull.)

Anyway, to my hopefully not dull critique of the novel! Jim Burden, a New York-based lawyer for a railway company, encounters an old friend on a train journey across Iowa. They begin to reminisce about a woman, the Ántonia of the title, whom they both knew in Nebraska when they were young.

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Random Thoughts: Writers in Translation

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Serendipity. I prefer it to coincidence. Tonight, I’ve been catching up on the blogs I follow, and discovered that Gwen has merged two into one. That led me to this page, and a book list I’ve never encountered before. Reading through the list, I noticed that there were echoes of Boxall’s 1001 Books list, and that more than 80% of the authors are male. This reminded me of the conversation that I had yesterday with my best friend as we browsed books in a bookshop on the inaugural National Bookshop Day. My best friend had chosen a couple of translated books by women authors and it jogged my memory that I’d decided to read more books by women authors that originate in a language other than my own. At the end of August, I had discovered that there was such a thing as Women in Translation month, and that it had been going on all month. It was this article in The Guardian that enlightened me, and led me to another in which women translators talk about their favourite fellow women translators who translate women authors into English. I now have the beginnings of a list of my own, thanks to Sian Cain’s Guardian article and to browsing the shelves and displays in the bookshop.

This is my list so far:

Paulina Chiziane
Conceição Evaristo
Samanta Schweblin, Fever Dream
Lydie Salvayre, Cry Mother Spain
Colette
Hilda Hilst, With My Dog-Eyes
Mariana Enriquez, Things we lost in the fire
Laura Restrepo, Delirium

Feel free to leave recommendations in the comments for women authors that you’ve read in translation.

In Cold Blood

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Read 26/09/2017-06/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

As I started this book, it felt like I knew the story already, and yet I didn’t. I had watched the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, based on his experience writing the book, which has left me with a strange half knowledge.

It took a while for Capote’s writing style to gel for me. I’d come from volume 7 of The Sixth Gun (review to come), and prior to that had read Peter Carey’s memoir Wrong About Japan, both of which were punchy and fast flowing in their own ways. In Cold Blood starts off more melodramatic in tone. It made me think of those true crime TV programmes where re-enactments take place and a man with a sonorous voice intones the story over the top of the action. A bit like Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, for readers in the UK.

As I settled into Capote’s style, though, I found myself gripped by the scenes he was setting. Continue reading