Permafrost

c374bef93dbbe70596f57397767416341674141_v5

Read 21/02/2021-26/02/2021

Rating 5 stars

Permafrost is the first novel by Catalan poet Eva Baltasar. It’s a thing of beauty, visceral and uncompromising. It’s about depression, and being cared about but not loved; it’s the story of someone who tries not to let others in because being self-contained is safer. It’s also deeply, dryly funny.

Continue reading

Stasiland

1847083358.01._sx180_sclzzzzzzz_

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

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

1782273123.01._sx540_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 27/09/2020-04/10/2020

Rating 4 stars

Dorthe Nors’ fifth novel examines the crisis of middle age as experienced by a single woman estranged from her sister and trying to work out what she wants from life. It’s a funny and moving book, with a deadpan humour that wrong foots the reader from time to time with its seriousness. Continue reading

His Bloody Project: Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae

bc799f5baba023659682f646d67434f414f4141_v5

Read 26/04/2020-03/05/2020

Rating 3 stars

I’ve had Graeme Macrae Burnet’s book hanging around on my Kindle for three or so years. A friend’s recent review of Burnet’s debut novel reminded me that I hadn’t got round to reading His Bloody Project.

I was in the mood for some historical fiction after the last book I read, so I charged up my neglected Kindle and opened His Bloody Project up. Continue reading

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

1846141818.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 26/01/2020-14/02/2020

Rating 3 stars

Jonathan Haidt wrote The Righteous Mind in 2012, four years before many of us finally became aware that the political world had tilted on its axis and everything we thought we understood about the democratic process had unravelled. Haidt, it’s true, had pinpointed the change as starting in the 1990s, but for many of us, 2016 was Year Zero. Continue reading

I Who Have Never Known Men

820c00db7cb44f1596b72737377434f414f4141

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

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Outsiders to In Cold Blood

It has been a while since I last did a Six Degrees chain. Life got a lot busy over the summer, and I haven’t been reading as many books as usual, never mind keeping up with my fellow bloggers. But here I am, only five days late (what do you mean, more like four months late?), and to celebrate, I’m going to do things properly this time, and not count the first book in the chain as part of my six. Hooray!

The Outsiders by S E Hinton is the start of this month’s Six Degrees book chain. I’ve never read it or seen the film, so let’s see where I end up. Continue reading

The Girl Who Played with Fire

1906694184-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 11/08/2018-08/09/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room European Backpacking Challenge

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second book in the Millennium Trilogy (shut up, that ghost written fourth book and its followup is not part of the series) by Stieg Larsson. After my forays into Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s and Jo Nesbø’s writing, it was a relief to be back in Larsson’s safe hands. Continue reading