I Who Have Never Known Men

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Read 13/09/2019-20/09/2019

Rating 5 stars

Jacqueline Harpman’s I Who Have Never Known Men is filed under Sci-Fi at my local library. I’m not entirely sure why. There’s a vague hint that the characters, who are incarcerated in an underground bunker for the first part of the novel, are no longer on Earth. It felt more dystopian than Sci-Fi to me, more akin to The Handmaid’s Tale, futuristic and speculative.

The novel was first published in French in 1995. An English translation followed in 1997. Vintage has reissued Ros Schwartz’s translation this year with an excellent introduction to the novel by Sophie Mackintosh. She, too, suggests that it’s a Sci-Fi work, but also relates it to Herland. Mackintosh’s intro draws out the key strands of the story and makes a case for the significance of Harpman’s book far better than I can. We are agreed that it’s a masterpiece. Continue reading

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Crimson

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Read 10/09/2019-12/09/2019

Rating 4 stars

Niviaq Korneliussen’s Crimson is a novel about a group of friends in their twenties. It’s set in Greenland and it explores themes of love, anger and betrayal against a backdrop of sexual liberty, gender politics, self discovery and the effects of child abuse.

Continue reading

The Diary of a Bookseller

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Read 06/09/2019-08/09/2019

Rating 5 stars

Weezelle at Words and Leaves recommended Shaun Bythell’s memoir of running The Book Shop in Wigtown before I’d been to Wigtown or knew The Book Shop existed. Indeed, when I visited by accident in 2018 on the way home from a holiday the other side of the Galloway Forest, diverted by the Misogynist in Chief sojourning at his gaudy golf shack, I didn’t even realise that the book Weezelle had recommended was about that shop. Continue reading

Claudine at School

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Read 26/08/2019-02/09/2019

Rating 3 stars

I’ve wanted to read Colette’s Claudine books since my birthday trip to Paris four years ago. I intended to buy the omnibus from Shakespeare and Co but they’d sold out. Since then, the books have been on my library wishlist. I saw the Colette biopic earlier this year and read a short story by her in Wayward Girls last month and this spurred me on to borrow the first in the series.

In Claudine at School, we meet our heroine as she turns 15. Continue reading

How the Light Gets In

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Read 22/08/2019-26/08/2019

Rating 5 stars

Read for the 20 Books of Summer readathon.

How to describe How The Light Gets In. The prosaic description is that it’s a collection of short stories. It’s not, though. Not entirely. These are ultra short stories, fragments in many cases, brief glimpses into the lives of people on the edge of the prosaic. I found some of the stories breathtaking, literally. At times, I found myself holding my breath with the emotion of being dropped into a situation and then realising the enormity of that situation to the person experiencing it. Continue reading

A Lost Lady

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Read 18/08/2019-21/08/2019

Rating 4 stars

Read for the 20 Books of Summer readathon

Do you ever have trouble deciding which book to read next, or whether to read an author’s works in the order they wrote them? I’ve been having a mini quandary with two novellas by Willa Cather that I bought secondhand from Beckside Books in Penrith on a recent holiday. I put both of them onto my 20 Books of Summer list, thinking that I would make a decision when I got to them. Continue reading