Umami

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Read 25/08/2020-28/08/2020

Rating 4 stars

Read for Women in Translation Month

Umami is Laia Jufresa’s debut novel, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes. Set in Mexico City in the first few years of the 21st century, it moves back and forth in time to tell the story of the residents of Belldrop Mews. It’s a tale of love and loss, of chances not taken, and of secrets that refuse to remain secret. Continue reading

Disoriental

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Read 14/08/2020-24/08/2020

Rating 5 stars

Read for Women in Translation Month

Disoriental tells the story of the Sadr family, Iranians who fled to France at the time of the Iranian Revolution. It’s a family saga with a difference. Narrated by Kimiâ Sadr, it draws together her experiences at the turn of the 20th century and mixes them with family myths and ancestral tales. Continue reading

Unbowed: One woman’s story

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Read 27/07/2020-13/08/2020

Rating 3 stars

Book 9 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Unbowed is the memoir of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Muta Maathai. This remarkable Kenyan woman was a child during the period of the British war against the Kikuyu people. She became a scientist, educated in Kenya, the US and Germany. She joined the environmental movement and campaigned for the re-establishment of forest in Kenya and fairer representation of women in agricultural production. She was a powerful advocate for democracy in Kenya. Her ideologies put her in conflict with Daniel Arup Moi’s government, and placed her life in danger. She was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is what I gleaned from Maathai’s Wikipedia entry, after my best friend sent me a card printed by her sister, one in a series of inspirational women she had designed. Continue reading

Barn 8

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Read 12/07/2020-18/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 6 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

I’d read a lot of praise for Deb Olin Unferth’s novel Barn 8 on social media and in the press and I finally decided to take the plunge.

It is as good as people say it is. This is my first encounter with Unferth, although this isn’t her first book. Continue reading

Boy Parts

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Read 11/07/2020-12/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 5 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

I find it hard to believe that Boy Parts is Eliza Clark’s debut novel. It’s confident, fiercely funny and its chattiness belies the darkness at its heart.

Not since Chuck Pahlaniuk have I felt so delighted to be entertained by the vagaries of human nature. Not since James Kelman has a writer captured so well for me the hard edge of working class play and working class survival. Not since the translation of Virginie Despante’s Vernon Subutex trilogy into English have I been so pleased to meet a character that is so grotesquely charming. Continue reading

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya

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Read 26/06/2020-11/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 4 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya is the US edition of Caroline Elkins’ book published in Britain as Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. It documents a particularly atrocious period in Britain’s history – the brutal suppression of the Kikuyu people in Kenya in the 1950s, through the use of detention camps and forced labour, and the subsequent attempts by British government to cover it up. Continue reading

Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers

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Read 07/06/2020-14/06/2020

Rating 4 stars

Book 2 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

Common People is a book I pledged for on Unbound in 2018. It grew from a radio documentary by Kit de Waal called “Where Are All the Working Class Writers?“, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2017.

As well as securing high profile, established authors like Malorie Blackman, Louise Doughty, Lisa McInerney and Anita Sethi, de Waal as editor commissioned a search through regional writer development agencies for new working class voices to be included in the anthology. Continue reading