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:
Samanta Schweblin, Fever Dream
Lydie Salvayre, Cry Mother Spain
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.
Rating: 3 stars
I debated with myself whether to review Morality for Beautiful Girls or not. I mentioned my personal concerns about reading Alexander McCall Smith’s popular series in my review of The Heavens May Fall.
How did I come to start reading the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books? Continue reading
Rating: 3 stars
I just read Erik’s review of The Lowland over on The Past Due Book Review, and can’t believe I didn’t post my review when I started this blog. Perhaps it was one of my random thought offers that I didn’t think worthy of a second airing beyond LibraryThing. Or perhaps it was because I hadn’t jotted anything down in my book thoughts notebook on Evernote.
Anyway, here’s what I thought at the time. A few weeks later, I read Rohanton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, which I much preferred.
As I started to read this book, I didn’t think I was going to like it. The characters seemed so blank, so disinterested in their surroundings, so unwilling to say what they were really thinking and feeling. They float through their lives, occasionally making momentous decisions that never really live up to their promise. There was nothing particularly to grab onto with any of them, nothing that made me warm to them or want to root for them as life happened around them.
The book is a sequence of events, sometimes recounted in a linear way, sometimes using flashbacks and multi-character perspective. It never really gets going, it jumps around too much, and doesn’t have anything striking to say. Despite beginning at a time of civil unrest in India, despite portraying the lives of a fragmented family.
And yet, by the end of the book I didn’t want it to end. I’d spent everyday time with the characters and they felt like neighbours I might nod to in the street. Nobody I would sit down with for a cup of tea and a chat, but people I would miss seeing around. The final chapter, told from the perspective of the character I was most interested in, but who doesn’t really get a voice in the rest of the novel, was sad. All of that, and for what, he seemed to be saying. I didn’t know, either.
I watched Wild before I read Cheryl Strayed’s book. Well, I watched most of Wild. I was on a plane and turbulence meant that I didn’t get to finish watching before landing. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, but the film didn’t prepare me for the emotional rollercoaster that the book turned out to be for me.
I don’t mind watching a film before I’ve read a book, but I’m often reluctant to watch films based on books that I have read and loved with a passion, mainly for the reason that the screenwriter and the director don’t share my impressions of the book and its characters.
Wild was on TV last night, though, and I watched it again so that I could see the end. Having read the book, and knowing that Cheryl and her experiences are so much more than the film could contain, I enjoyed Reese Witherspoon’s performance much more. I’d found her strangely earnest on my first watch.
What I didn’t enjoy was the knowledge of what had been cut from the full story in order to fit within the time boundaries of a cinema release. So much of what was behind Cheryl’s life decisions was omitted, and the flashbacks to the actions she was driven to by grief lacked nuance. I suspect that this paring back of context was what made Witherspoon’s performance seem so earnest first time around.
I watched the credits and saw that the screenwriter was Nick Hornby. I recognise that reducing such a packed and complex book into a feature film is a big challenge. I think he did a good job, but it did make me wonder how a female screenwriter would have tackled Cheryl’s past and the way the hike changed her, and whether a woman would have interpreted Cheryl’s encounters with the people she meets along the way differently. One thing in particular that Hornby seemed not to appreciate was why Cheryl’s time with Jonathan was so significant for her.
And for all that Nick Hornby’s own writing as a novelist is peppered with musical references, the film didn’t make the most of how important music is in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir. I found that odd second time around.
Film adaptations can be a double edged thing, I guess. How do you feel about watching films based on books you love?
What a year. In a way, with all the retreating from reality I’ve felt compelled to do, I’m not surprised that I read 106 books over the last 12 months.
On Instagram, there’s a Best 9 meme. I did a best 9 books that I read last year.