Hadji Murat

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Read 11/08/2021-18/08/2021

Rating 4 stars

Hadji Murat is Tolstoy’s final novel, drafted and redrafted between 1896 and 1904, going through eight iterations before the final version was created. It is an examination of war and political posturing between opposing cultures that has relevance to the world we live in today. Continue reading

Knucklebone

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Read 04/08/2021-10/08/2021

Rating 3 stars

Knucklebone is a police procedural with a twist set in Johannesburg. Detective Ian Jack has left the South African police force to fulfill his late mother’s dream for him to get an education and not turn into his father. His former colleague Reshma Patel has risen up the ranks in the meantime and is now a Captain. They reconnect one night when Ian is shadowing a security guard as research for his Criminology MA, and the police are also called to the scene of a crime. Continue reading

Cockfight

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Read 25/05/2021-31/05/2021

Rating 4 stars

Cockfight is the debut collection of short stories by Ecuadorian writer María Fernanda Ampuero, translated by Frances Riddle, that explores the violence and exploitation that comes with being a woman in Ecuador.

The writing is lyrical and Riddle’s translation chooses words and phrases with care, capturing the visceral nature of Ampuero’s original narrratives. Continue reading

A Glastonbury Romance

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Read 01/03/2021-14/03/2021

Rating 4 stars

A Glastonbury Romance is an incredible piece of literature. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. It rambles and gets bogged down in verbiage at times, but it also soars. I was utterly absorbed and entertained by it. The story examines the nature and meaning of life on Earth through the peccadilloes of its characters and John Cowper Powys’s commentary on various philosophical ideas, from religion to politics via environmentalism. I think it portrays human nature honestly, for the most part, but also reveals that Powys at best didn’t understand women, and at worst was a chauvinist. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: from Hamnet to How to be Both

The first Saturday of January came too soon for me. 2021 started slowly and I’m only gradually emerging from the brain hibernation I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of weeks. But here I am for Six Degrees of Separation. Can I sustain a chain a month for the meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best for another year? This month, we’re starting with a book I read last year, Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet.

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Between Beirut and the Moon

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Read 07/12/2020-16/12/2020

Rating 5 stars

Between Beirut and the Moon is Naji Bakhti’s debut novel. Set in Beirut roughly a decade after the civil war, it follows Adam Najjar and his dream of becoming the first Arab astronaut and the first Arab to walk on the moon. Bakhti is a wry observer of the universal oddness of family and the extra complexity that comes with a Lebanese adolescence. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to Fantastic Mr Fox

December’s here already, and the first Saturday of the month brings with it Six Degrees of Separation. At the start of the year, I decided that I would attempt to create a chain for the meme every month. And here I am, at the end of the year, with my twelfth chain. This month, we’re starting with Judy Blum’s 1970 classic Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

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Wintering

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Read 09/11/2020-14/11/202

Rating 4 stars

Wintering starts as a memoir of a time in Katherine May’s life when she felt that she had been frozen. Margaret, who blogs at From Pyrenees to Pennines, included it in her August Six Degrees of Separation this summer. I immediately reserved it at the library.

I enjoyed May’s writing style. She is a clear communicator and observes her own experiences with an unemotional detachment. She reveals early on that she is autistic, which possibly explains the calm clarity she brings to her observations. I could imagine this book as a radio documentary. Continue reading

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons

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Read 28/08/2020-30/08/2020

Rating 4 stars

Read for Women in Translation Month.

Goli Taraghi is a popular Iranian writer, a best seller in Iran whose stories have appeared in a number of anthologies. The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons is a collection of her short fiction, her first collection published in English. The translation is by Sara Khalili. It brings together ten stories about Iran under the last Shah, and life in Tehran and in exile after the Revolution. 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