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

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

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