‘Harmless Like You’ by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan tells the story of Yukiko Oyama, a teenager in New York in 1968 whose parents move back to Japan after emigrating to the United States when she was a child. She decides to stay in New York with her friend Odile to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. Many years later, her son Jay, who has recently become a father himself, travels to Berlin to find his estranged mother and inform Yuki that his father has died and has left the house to her in his will. The journey also leads Jay to discover why Yuki abandoned him suddenly when he was just two years old. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Art
‘Autumn’ is the first of four books in a planned series of novels by Ali Smith named after the seasons and which focus on how we experience time. Set during the fallout of the Brexit referendum result in 2016, it follows the friendship between Elisabeth Demand, a thirty-two-year-old history of art lecturer and her eccentric 101-year-old former next-door neighbour Daniel Gluck who is spending his dying days in an assisted care facility. Continue reading
‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton tells the story of a young Trinidadian woman Odelle Bastien who lands a job as a typist at the prestigious Skelton art gallery in London in 1967, five years after she moved to the city. Odelle’s new boyfriend Lawrie has recently inherited a painting rumoured to be the work of Isaac Robles, a talented young Spanish artist who mysteriously disappeared during the Civil War in the 1930s. The painting causes quite a stir at the Skelton and Odelle’s enigmatic boss, Marjorie Quick, appears to have a personal interest in the painting as well as a professional one. Odelle sets out to uncover the true origins of the lost masterpiece whose secrets lie with the wealthy Anglo-Austrian Schloss family who employed Isaac’s sister Teresa as their housekeeper in Malaga at the beginning of the war. Continue reading
‘The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance’ is Edmund de Waal’s highly acclaimed memoir tracing his family history through a collection of objects. In the early 1990s, De Waal studied ceramics in Tokyo as part of a two-year scholarship where he met his great-uncle Ignace (Iggie). Following Iggie’s partner’s death, de Waal inherited 264 Japanese miniature wood and ivory carvings known as netsuke often representing animals, people or mythical creatures. Traditionally used as toggles to attach carrying pouches to Japanese robes, netsuke were originally designed to be useful everyday objects rather than purely decorative ones. De Waal became intrigued by the story behind the collection and how it came to be passed down through the generations of his family across the world. Continue reading
Now that the shortlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has been released, I am taking a break from reading and reviewing translated fiction for a while. ‘How to be both’ by Ali Smith has been shortlisted for just about every major literary award in recent months including the Man Booker Prize, the Folio Prize, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Costa Book Awards as well as winning the Goldsmiths Prize and the more I have heard about it in recent months, the more I have wanted to read it. One half is set in fifteenth century Italy and tells the story of al fresco Renaissance artist Franceshco del Cossa. The other half is set in modern Britain and tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl called George whose mother has recently died. Continue reading
Although the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is supposed to be metaphorical, the controversy surrounding the new Penguin Modern Classics edition of Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ suggests that many readers care about actual book covers quite a lot. Variously described as postmodern, sexualised, creepy and downright terrifying, the new edition of Dahl’s best-loved book released next month ahead of its 50th anniversary has provoked some very strong reactions from readers and critics this week.
Last summer, I read ‘The Last Life‘ by Claire Messud but gave it a mixed review. I had expected a character-driven novel about French-Americans to be something I would really enjoy. However, I didn’t really get on with it and I wanted to try Messud’s latest novel, ‘The Woman Upstairs’, so I could find out whether it was just that particular book which wasn’t for me or her work in general. Continue reading