Novellas in November – Part 3

Although my normal reading contains a fair smattering of novellas anyway, I’ve loved concentrating on reading novellas this November – here’s my third and final selection for this month: Poor Cow by Nell Dunn Published in 1967, Dunn’s novella is a ‘classic of 1960s London life’ and was her second work of fiction after her Read More

Coming in January – Echoes of Eco

Inspired by the comments on my post the other day on this month’s Six Degrees of Separation tag, I’ve decided to set myself a little project for January, and you’re all welcome to join in.  The starting book for the tag this month was Vanity Fair – and much as I’d love to read that Read More

Two in short: Tremain and Laurain

Because the authors’ names rhyme, and I haven’t got a huge amount to say about these novels, despite enjoying them both a lot, here’s a twofer for you: The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain This was our book group read, discussed back at the start of the month. It was mostly a hit with our Read More

French YA Fantasy – Vol 1 of 4: Can’t wait for Vol 2!

A Winter’s Promise: Vol 1 of the Mirror Visitor Quartet by Christelle Dabos Translated by Hildegarde Serle Publishing YA books is a bit of a departure for Europa Editions, but they’ve taken on the English translation of this French bestseller, and I loved all 492 pages of this first volume. Couldn’t put it down, and Read More

An understated but moving novel with the cutest cover ever!

If Cats Disappeared From the World by Genki Kawamura Translated by Eric Selland I think the little kitten on this book must rank amongst the cutest cats ever to grace a cover.  What you can’t see from the picture above is that his eyes are highlighted with gold, glinting at you, and daring you to Read More

Très charmant! J’ai adoré ce roman

With You in Paris by Clémentine Beauvais Translated by Sam Taylor After the excess of English whimsy (thanks for that phrase, Liz!) of The Brontes Went to Woolworths, I needed a palate-cleanser of a read. Usually, I turn to thrillers, but this book on my bedside shelf caught my eye, and it was just the perfect Read More

A kind of surgical history

Under the Knife by Arnold Van de Laar Translated by Andy Brown I love reading books about medicine in all of its many disciplines, and books about surgery are often amongst the most fascinating. Subtitled “The History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations”, this book promised a interesting take on the subject. In the introduction, Read More

20 Books of Summer #6 & #7 – Gavalda & Bourdouxhe for #WITMonth

A double-pronged duo today. I can cross off books 6 & 7 from my 20 Books of Summer list and they are both translated from the French by women translators and thus perfect for Women in Translation month, which is hosted by Meytal at Biblibio every August. Billie by Anna Gavalda Translated by Jennifer Rappaport Read More

Paris in July 2018 take two: Simenon & Laurain

Two short reviews for my second contribution to Paris in July – an annual tag hosted by Thyme for Tea which I love doing each year. A Man’s Head by Georges Simenon Translated by David Coward A Man’s Head was the ninth Maigret novel, originally published in 1931, I read David Coward’s 2014 translation in the new Penguin Read More

20 Books of Summer #4 & #5 – Hamid and Miralles

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid Hamid’s 2017 Man Booker Prize and Rathbones Folio 2018 shortlisted novel is difficult to categorise.  At face value it is a classic boy meets girl, boy loses girl variant, a fable-style romance set in a contemporary Asian city that is not yet at war.  On another level, it is about Read More

A novel with a rather long title…

One Clear Ice-cold January Morning at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century by Roland Schimmelpfennig Translated by Jamie Bulloch The worst thing about this book is its cumbersome title – which is actually the beginning of the novel’s first sentence, which continues thus: …just after daybreak, a solitary wolf crossed the frozen river marking the Read More

Review Catch-up…

Life is rather busy, and I’m terribly behind on my reviews. So here is a batch of reviews and links for you… Educated by Tara Westover This memoir of growing up in an unconventional setting and how the author escaped to discover the world outside was absolutely compelling reading, Westover grew up off-grid in Idaho, Read More

Two novels with a French connection – Chevalier & Magnan

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier This was our Book Group’s choice for this month – ‘Blue’ being the key word we’d picked it by.  This was Chevalier’s first novel, published in 1997, and it is different to all of her others by having a dual timeline, following the stories of two women, centuries apart. Read More

Two novels in which the protagonist is NOT ‘completely fine’

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman Most people I know who have read this book have loved it – but not everyone, notably Rebecca (who reviewed it here).  I must say that although it was an entertaining read that I sped through, I’m tending towards Rebecca’s view.  You’ve also probably seen all over Read More

The Baltic Books Blog Tour #2

This year the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are celebrating 100 years of independence with new translations of Baltic Books coming to the UK for the first time and a series of cultural events happening across the UK. The Baltics are also being honoured as the Market Focus at London Book Fair Read More

The Baltic Books Blog Tour #1

This year the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are celebrating 100 years of independence with new translations of Baltic Books coming to the UK for the first time and a series of cultural events happening across the UK. The Baltics are also being honoured as the Market Focus at London Book Fair Read More

An amoral anti-hero for Italian Lit Month

  The Goodbye Kiss by Massimo Carlotto Translated by Lawrence Venuti There’s dark, and then there’s dark! You know what I mean, we’re talking the super-noir of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me or Simenon’s Dirty Snow here…  Lean and mean novels with an amoral anti-hero at their hearts. This is the case for the protagonist Read More

Shows how hard it is to pull off a literary thriller…

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani Translated by Sam Taylor     The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.   This French bestseller has such a killer first line – they put it on the front cover. You’re left with no doubt that ‘The Perfect Nanny‘ (as this book has been titled in the Read More

The Second Outing for the Anti-Miss Marple in Sicily…

  Auntie Poldi and the Fruits of the Lord by Mario Giordano Translated from the German by John Brownjohn I was delighted to encounter the first Auntie Poldi book last year. The adventures of an irrepressible sixty-year-old German lady who retires to her late ex-husband’s ancestral home in Sicily, hoping to “fulfil one of her dearest Read More

Two Short Novels in Translation

One of my ‘Try Harder’ targets this year is to read more in translation. I got the year off to a good start with these two short novels… Bird in a Cage by Frédéric Dard Translated from the French by David Bellos I discovered Dard just over a year ago, when the lovely people at Read More

Review catch up – again – and the problem of remembering!

Two shorter reviews of books I read last year…   Nutshell by Ian McEwan I read McEwan’s novel between Christmas and New Year, and the terrible thing is, I know I really enjoyed it. I know it was funny, outrageous and inspired by a quotation from Hamlet, yet I can’t really remember any detail about Read More

Year End Review #4: In Translation

I’ve also decided to give books I read in translation a separate mention this year, if only to try and spur me on to do better in 2018. I was shocked to find that I’ve only read fourteen novels in translation this year, just over 10% of my reading; last year I read 27, (of Read More

Some recent reads in short…

It’s catch-up time again… Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre  While I loved Lemaitre’s Verhoeven trilogy and last year’s superbly creepy Blood Wedding, Three Days and a Life was a slight disappointment. It’s still an excellent suspense novel, but lacks the elements of surprise and immediacy that his others have shown.  It has Read More

Starting Anna Karenina again

In my teens, around the time of the wonderful BBC adaptation of War & Peace with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, and ITV’s Anna Karenina with Nicola Pagett as the doomed heroine, I went through a real Russian phase in my reading. We had copies of most of the Russian greats already in the house as Read More

My August Shiny posts…

This month I wrote quite a few posts for Shiny New Books, here’s a summary of those I haven’t already mentioned: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce Although a more conventionally plotted ‘will they ever get together’ type of romance than the bestselling The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, (see my review of that here), Read More

#WITMonth – Virginie Despentes – Vernon Subutex 1

A state of the nation novel for the post-punk generation Translated by Frank Wynne Virginie Despentes has lived a bit! You can sense that she’s happy for us to know that from her provocative author photo (right), which is also laden with Gallic irony. Looking her up, she’s been a maid, worked in massage parlours and Read More

One for #WITMonth at Shiny…

Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello Translated by Alex Valente August is Women in Translation month – and my review of  this debut novel by Italian author Elena Varvello is over at Shiny New Books. A combination of psychothriller and coming of age story that works, brilliantly, these two theme entwine around each other, Read More

Three Short Novels – Simenon – Fitzgerald – Johnston

Georges Simenon – The Grand Banks Café Translated by David Coward Maigret and Mrs Maigret are about to go on holiday. Mrs Maigret is packing as Maigret reads a letter that’s arrived from an old friend. “…Listen, are you still set on passing our week’s holiday in Alsace?” She stared at him, not understanding. The Read More

Let the children play…

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba Translated by Lisa Dillman I had forgotten that it was Spanish Literature Month, but just in time a new arrival has allowed me to take part. This novella, by young Spanish author Barba (right), is  published on Aug 3. He is one of Granta’s Best of Young Spanish novelists, Read More

The glamour of the Grand Prix – it’s not real life…

Monte Carlo by Peter Terrin Translated from the Dutch by David Doherty Before I tell you more about this exquisite short novel by Dutch author, Peter Terrin, I’d like to expound briefly on the glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix – it is the one we all love to see, raced over the streets of Read More