What Concerns Us

What Concerns Us is Laura Vogt’s second novel and her first published in English translation. Her translator Caroline Waight has done an excellent job of maintaining the poetry of Vogt’s story of three women.

I was offered the opportunity, by the publisher Héloïse Press, to read and review Vogt’s novel ahead of publication in August, as I’d loved Erica Mou’s Thirsty Sea. I was intrigued by the description of the novel as “A book without filters, a blunt depiction of pregnancy, sex, maternity and relationships through the lives of three women.”

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The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is a new kind of crime novel for me, from a Japanese genre called ‘honkaku’. The story is split between a series of murders that took place in 1936 and the attempts of two young men in 1979 to solve the mystery when a new piece of evidence comes into their possession.

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The Book of Ramallah

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Read 29/05/2022-02/06/2022

Rating 5 stars

Comma Press in Manchester publishes a series called Reading the City, in which stories from cities around the world are brought together in an anthology, often stories that have not been translated into English before. I picked up The Book of Ramallah at the recent Northern Publishers’ Fair at Manchester Central Library.

During the pandemic, I’d watched Mayor, the 2020 documentary by David Osit that follows Mousa Hadid as Mayor of Ramallah over a two year period. Hadid comes across as that rare thing – a man of honour in politics. It’s a moving, funny, heartwarming look at what it means to be a Palestinian in a city hemmed in by occupation. It made me want to know more about Ramallah. This collection seemed a good place to start. Continue reading

10 Books of Summer

10

Cathy is running the summer reading challenge that aims to clear some books off your To Read pile again this year – hooray! I’m joining in with my usual ten book goal. As a target, it worked out well for me last year, despite being fooled by some tiny old books into thinking they were short reads. I only missed my goal by one. I’m confident that I’ll hit my goal this year, though, especially since I’ve averaged a book a week so far.

The challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September and you can find out more about what’s involved in Cathy’s introductory post on 746 Books. The main rule is that the rules aren’t tightly binding. So if you choose a book and then don’t fancy it, it’s more than okay to swap it for something else. Or if you have a bit of a reading slump and your target starts to feel like a stretch, then you should feel free to recalibrate to something more realistic. As long as something gets cleared off the To Read pile, you’re golden. Continue reading

The Silence of the Sea

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Read 07/04/2022

Rating 4 stars

The Silence of the Sea is a novella of occupation and resistance. It was published in German-occupied France in 1942, not quite two years after the occupation began. Its author, Jean Bruller, wrote it in roughly eight months, publishing under the pseudonym Vercors. I borrowed a bilingual edition from the library that reproduces the definitive French text published in 1964 alongside Cyril Connolly’s 1944 translation into English. Continue reading

Thirsty Sea

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Read 30/03/2022-04/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

I’m really pleased to have received a review copy of Erica Mou’s novel Thirsty Sea from the publisher Héloïse Press.

This is a story about love and loss, guilt and detachment, friendship and isolation. It’s beautifully written. The story is that of Maria, told over the course of 24 hours. It starts at the time of the evening meal, on the day of an uncelebrated, unacknowledged anniversary that brings Maria’s mother to Maria’s flat. Continue reading

Oldladyvoice

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Read 15/02/2022-18/02/2022

Rating 4 stars

Over the border from France to Spain in my European literary tour and a recent subscription book from And Other Stories. Oldladyvoice is the debut novel by Elisa Victoria, and follows nine-year-old Marina’s adventures one summer. Her mother is ill in hospital and Marina is looked after by her grandmother.

Set in Seville and Marbella, the story balances Marina’s anxiety about her mother’s health and its impact on her own future with the sweetness and hilarity of a girl on the cusp of double figures in age, who is still a child but not quite a child, too. Continue reading

The Equestrienne

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Read 28/12/2021

Rating 5 stars

The Equestrienne is a novella that I picked up speculatively, prompted by Meytal Radzinski’s Women in Translation initiative. Every day during 2021, Meytal has tweeted about a non-Anglophone female writer whose work may or may not, more often not, have been translated into English. A different writer every day. It’s quite a task and a great source of authors for anyone wanting to broaden their reading.

Uršuľa Kovalyk is a Slovakian writer from Košice who now lives in Bratislava. She campaigns for women’s rights, and is the director of the Theatre With No Home, which provides opportunities for homeless and disabled actors.

Košice is close to Slovakia’s border with Hungary. I thought I would visit there on my virtual tour of Europe, rather than the Slovakian capital. Continue reading

The President’s Last Love

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Read 28/11/2021-07/12/2021

Rating 3 stars

I started reading Andrey Kurkov’s books almost 20 years ago, starting with the first of his Penguin books, about an investigative journalist and the penguin he adopts from a closing zoo. I enjoyed his satire of life in a former Soviet state and its struggles with a post independence relationship with Russia. The President’s Last Love, translated by George Bird, is a more ambitious work that spans four decades and explores the trajectory of one man from street gang member to catering manager to president.

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

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Read 20/11/2021-28/11/2021

Rating 11 stars

I eyed up Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead for a long time after its publication, resisting its simple but elegant dark blue cover each time I saw it on display in a bookshop. I finally succumbed earlier this year and now my European book tour brings me to Poland and it’s reached the top of my To Read pile. Continue reading