As some of you may already know, August is Women in Translation Month (founded by book blogger Meytal at Biblibio in 2014) which aims to increase readership of translated books by female authors and raise awareness of the gender imbalance in publishing (estimates vary but currently only around 25-30% of books translated into English are by female authors). The three titles I have been reading this month from authors based in Israel, Austria and Mexico showcase the variety of fiction written by women around the world and championed by independent publishers Pushkin Press, Peirene Press and Granta.
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston) tells the story of Dr Eitan Green, a neurosurgeon who has recently relocated to the Israeli city of Beersheba and is involved in a collision with an illegal Eritrean immigrant while he is driving home from work through the desert. In a panic, Eitan leaves him to die at the side of the road, but the dead man’s widow shows up the next day on his doorstep holding his wallet which he left at the scene and blackmails him into providing medical assistance to other illegal immigrants in the area. To complicate matters even further, Eitan’s wife Liat is the police detective tasked with uncovering the identity of the driver who left the scene of the hit-and-run. Continue reading
‘Purity’ by Jonathan Franzen tells the story of Pip, a college graduate in her 20s living in Oakland, California and deeply in debt who is offered the chance to take an internship with the Sunlight Project in Bolivia led by East German peace activist Andreas Wolf. Pip hopes that working for the Sunlight Project – a Wikileaks-style organisation which traffics secrets – will lead her to some answers about her origins including the identity of her father. Her work eventually takes her to Denver where she meets investigative journalist Tom Aberant who has connections with Andreas and knows his darkest secret. Continue reading
This month, I’ve broken the habit of a (five-year blogging) lifetime and reread the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy by Philip Pullman ahead of the publication of ‘La Belle Sauvage’, the first volume of the Book of Dust trilogy later this year. The first book in the series ‘Northern Lights’ is set in a parallel universe similar to ours but different in many ways and introduces twelve-year-old Lyra Belacqua and her dæmon companion Pantalaimon who travel to the North Pole to rescue her friend Roger from the Gobblers who are carrying out experiments on children. In ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’, Lyra meets Will Parry and they travel between different universes including our own in pursuit of the meaning of Dust. Continue reading
Political events across the world continue to move at a whirlwind pace, particularly here in the UK. Here are my recommendations for three recent non-fiction books about British politics.
‘The Women Who Shaped Politics’ by Sophy Ridge offers a broad overview of the female campaigners and Members of Parliament who have shifted the political landscape in Westminster. The first half focuses on historical pioneers such as Mary Wollstonecraft and those involved in the suffragette movement while the second half draws on interviews with a range of contemporary female politicians including current Prime Minister Theresa May. Continue reading
‘Days Without End’ by Sebastian Barry tells the story of Thomas McNulty, a young Irishman who emigrates to Canada and later the United States in the mid-19th century after his family perished in the Great Famine. He befriends and falls in love with John Cole when they are teenagers and they work at a saloon where they dress as women and dance for miners. They later enlist for the US army fighting in two wars and adopt an orphaned Indian Sioux girl who they name Winona. Continue reading
I’ve had a copy of ‘On Beauty’ by Zadie Smith on my shelf for ages but as it is based on ‘Howards End’ by E. M. Forster, I decided to read the latter first about six years ago as I usually prefer to have some knowledge of the source material when reading an adaptation or homage to another book. However, I didn’t get on with ‘Howards End’ at all and consequently I have neglected ‘On Beauty’ for a very long time, but after enjoying Smith’s latest novel Swing Time so much last year, I wanted to try what is arguably her finest book.
‘The Valentine House’ by Emma Henderson is set in the French Alps at Arete, a large chalet built by Sir Anthony Valentine in the late nineteenth century and used as a summer house by the family across several generations. In 1914, Mathilde, a local girl from the valley, is selected by Sir Anthony’s wife Lady Charlotte to work as a servant at Arete on account of her being one of the ‘uglies’ and therefore less likely to catch Sir Anthony’s wandering eye. Mathilde gradually becomes acquainted with the quirks of this strange English family until she is betrayed by Sir Anthony’s granddaughter Daisy. Decades later in 1976, Sir Anthony’s great-great-grandson George is visiting Arete with his cousins, continuing many of the Valentine traditions such as the outdoor physical challenges known as ‘paideia’. With Mathilde’s help, they finally uncover the mystery surrounding the fate of Sir Anthony’s daughter Margaret. Continue reading