Ghosts on the Shore: Travels along Germany’s Baltic Coast

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Read 23/11/2020-06/12/2020

Rating 5 stars

Ghosts on the Shore is a travel book partly inspired by family history. Paul Scraton is a British writer who has lived in Berlin since the early 2000s. His wife grew up in the GDR and spent her early years on the Baltic Coast. Scraton became fascinated by this part of Germany, in part thanks to his wife Katrin’s family photographs and her childhood memories, but also because of the Baltic Coast’s place in the wider history and mythology of Germany. And so he decided to take a trip. Continue reading

Stasiland

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Read 15/11/2020-23/11/2020

Rating 5 stars

Stasiland has the subtitle Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall. In it, Anna Funder shares the experiences of a number of East Germans to build a picture of life under an oppressive regime. Her interviewees range from people who tried to escape, people separated arbitrarily from family overnight, and people who worked for the Stasi. There are amazing people between these pages who survived unimaginable horrors, and there are also the people who supported the use of those horrors. I found it a very moving book. Continue reading

Summer

Read 28/10/2020-09/11/2020

Rating 4 stars

Summer is the final book in Ali Smith’s ambitious Seasonal Quartet. It’s about change; the necessity of it so that things can be made new; the opportunity it offers for us to redefine ourselves in response to it; the choices we make and the consequences they hold. It’s also a drawing together of threads that travel through the other books, with returning characters and crossing themes. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: from Daisy Jones and the Six to Revolutionary Road

Happy New Year! And I’m starting 2020’s book blogging with 6 degrees of separation because I haven’t quite finished the book I started before Xmas.

I don’t do New Year resolutions, so it’s untrue for me to say I’ve resolved to do all of 2020’s 6 degrees of separations. I’m going to try my best to remember to, though.

January’s chain begins with a book I haven’t heard of. Continue reading

Wayward Girls and Wicked Women

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Read 17/07/2019-02/08/2019

Rating 3 stars

Read as part of the 20 Books of Summer readathon.

I accidentally started Women in Translation month early with this collection of short stories. I should have known that Angela Carter would include a few women whose first language isn’t English. After all, being a woman who doesn’t conform to the artificial notion of femininity isn’t an exclusively Anglophone thing.

Carter introduces her selections as being about women who aren’t really wicked or wayward, at least not all of them. Continue reading

Built on Sand

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Read 01/05/2019-05/05/2019

Rating 5 stars

Paul Scraton’s Built on Sand is a fictional biography of the city he has made his home. Berlin is a city that I’ve only visited once but I was fascinated by the way it wears its past on its streets and buildings. I’ve read other books set in Berlin, in the lead up to and during the Second World War, books which make the place as much a character in their storytelling as the people. Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and Mr Norris Changes Trains, the anonymous diary A Woman in Berlin and Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin all gave me a sense of knowing Berlin, some before I’d even travelled there. Continue reading

Letters from Klara

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Read 07/08/2018-10/08/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room European Backpacking Challenge

Published in Swedish in 1991, and recently translated into English, Letters from Klara is a collection of short stories written by Tove Jansson in her seventies. The Summer Book and The True Deceiver are still my favourites of Jansson’s literature for adults (as though the Moomin books aren’t for adults), but this collection was a blessed relief after the shocker I just finished. Continue reading