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. Continue reading

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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

Wrong About Japan

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Read 20/09/2017-22/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My husband noticed this on the non-fiction shelves in the library. I like Peter Carey’s novels, and a memoir of how he and his teenage son became captivated by manga and anime and travelled to Tokyo to meet artists and directors in each industry sounded interesting. Continue reading

The Maid’s Version

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Read 17/09/2017-20/09/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

According to a quote from Roddy Doyle on the front cover of The Maid’s Version, Daniel Woodrell is one of the world’s greatest novelists. I hadn’t heard of him until Missouri came up on the US Road Trip Challenge and I was hunting around for a book set there or written by a local author. I discovered that he wrote Winter’s Bone, on which the film I’ve started watching a couple of times but never finished is based. My local library doesn’t have its own copy of Winter’s Bone, so I borrowed The Maid’s Version instead. I found the opening scenes of the film version of Winter’s Bone visually dark and grey, so I was expecting The Maid’s Version to be the same. I was wrong. It started muted but, as it progressed, there were bursts of colour. Continue reading

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

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Read 12/09/2017-17/09/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

It’s a funny old thing, time. Gwen and I have been chatting in the comments over on her blog about how our attitudes to books and their authors change over time, and how where you are in your life can affect how you react to a book, from thinking it’s the best thing ever written to throwing it down in disgust before you’re even half way through.

That’s almost where I am with Bill Bryson. Continue reading