My next Women in Translation Month read is ‘The Nakano Thrift Shop’ by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell. I really enjoyed reading Strange Weather in Tokyo a couple of years ago (also known as ‘The Briefcase’ in the United States) and I was pleased to see another novel by Kawakami published by Portobello Books earlier this month with another excellent cover design by Natsumi Hayashi. Originally released in Japan in 2005, ‘The Nakano Thrift Shop’ tells the story of Hitomi Suganuma who starts working as a cashier selling second-hand goods in a thrift shop owned by the mysterious Haruo Nakano. He has several ex-wives and is having an affair with Sakiko while his older sister Masaya is an artist who regularly pops in and offers guidance. Meanwhile, Hitomi is largely preoccupied with another employee, the introverted Takeo, who helps Mr Nakano with house clearances. Continue reading
Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize earlier this year and winner of the Wainwright Prize, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot is a memoir about her descent into alcoholism and subsequent recovery after returning to her childhood home of Orkney at the age of thirty. There is a stark contrast between Liptrot’s hipster lifestyle in east London in her twenties where her addiction to alcohol led to relationship breakdowns, job losses and a driving conviction and the contemplative days spent observing corncrakes and living on the remote island of Papa Westray with a population of just seventy. Above all, it is a book which explores the meaning of connections, whether it is through people, places, drugs, wildlife or technology. Much like the excellent H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, it successfully brings together a moving narrative of trauma with nature appreciation and could be a contender for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction (formerly known as the Samuel Johnson Prize) ahead of the longlist announcement next month. Continue reading
I have been reading ‘In Other Words’ by Jhumpa Lahiri for Women in Translation Month hosted by Biblibio for the third year running. I enjoyed Lahiri’s short stories and novels which mostly focus on themes based around the experience of Bengali immigrants living on the east coast of the United States so I was intrigued that she had recently written a non-fiction book in Italian about her experiences of learning the language with Ann Goldstein’s translation into English on the opposite page.
‘The People in the Trees’ by Hanya Yanagihara tells the story of Norton Perina, a graduate of Harvard Medical School who accompanies Paul Tallent on an anthropological expedition to Ivu’ivu, a remote Micronesian island. During their travels in the 1950s, they come across a native tribe known as the Dreamers, a group of islanders who are well over a hundred years old after consuming the meat of a sacred turtle. The discovery and subsequent experiments win Norton a Nobel Prize but they also have serious consequences for the island and its inhabitants. Continue reading
It’s easy to see how politics can provide ripe subject material for novelists. From Whitehall to the White House, the settings of these stories are inevitably concerned with power, money, intrigue and risk-taking, all excellent topics for dark humour and high drama. Given that recent political developments in the United Kingdom have become stranger than fiction, it seemed like an appropriate time to read ‘House of Cards’ by Michael Dobbs. Originally published in 1989, the story follows chief whip Francis Urquhart who will stop at nothing to become Prime Minister, getting rid of his potential opponents in any way possible, mostly by orchestrating various scandals for them to fall into. However, tenacious journalist Mattie Storin is getting closer than she realises to uncovering his web of lies and deceit. Continue reading
The longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2016 was announced today. The thirteen books are:
Although I have been following several major literary awards for the past few years, I have never written a blog post specifically outlining my predictions for the Man Booker Prize… until now. Famously dubbed “posh bingo” by 2011 winner Julian Barnes, predicting which 12 or 13 titles will be on the longlist has always been notoriously difficult. Until 2014, the Prize was previously only open to authors from Commonwealth countries but the eligibility criteria have since been extended to allow any work of fiction written in English and published in the United Kingdom to be entered for the Prize. This only makes the annual guessing game even more challenging.