Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Accusation by Bandi

The Accusation BandiTranslated from the Korean by last year’s Man Booker International Prize winner Deborah Smith ‘The Accusation’ by Bandi is a collection of seven short stories by a pseudonymous author who reportedly still lives in North Korea and works as an official writer for the government. Written in the early 1990s at a time when the country was gripped by famine, it is said that Bandi’s stories were eventually smuggled into South Korea by a relative who hid sheets of paper in a copy of ‘The Selected Works of Kim Il-sung’. While there have been many accounts of life in North Korea published by defectors, a work of fiction by an author still living in one of the most secretive countries in the world is exceptionally rare. Continue reading

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Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Harmless Like You Rowan Hisayo Buchanan‘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

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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto Ann PatchettWinner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2002, ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett is set during a birthday party for Japanese businessman Katsumi Hosokawa held in his honour at the vice-president’s mansion in an unnamed South American country. While entertainment is provided by renowned American opera singer Roxane Coss, the property is suddenly stormed by terrorists who had originally planned to kidnap the president. However, in his absence, they end up holding dozens of guests under house arrest for several months.  Continue reading

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American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife Curtis SittenfeldI enjoyed reading Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld a couple of years ago and as part of my ongoing efforts to read other books by authors I have discovered since starting my blog, I turned to Sittenfeld’s best known novel  ‘American Wife’ which was published in 2008. It is a portrait of Alice Lindgren and her path towards becoming First Lady of the United States in 2001, from her youth in Wisconsin, to marriage and motherhood in her thirties through to her life in the White House during her husband’s unpopular presidency. Knowing that the story was inspired by key events in the life of Laura Bush means it is difficult not to picture Alice’s husband Charlie Blackwell as George W. Bush who took office in the same year. Continue reading

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3 French Novellas I Have Read Recently

The End of Eddy Edouard Louis‘The End of Eddy’ by Édouard Louis is a semi-autobiographical novel set in a deprived rural community in Picardy in northern France. Translated by Michael Lucey, it is a coming of age tale about Eddy Bellegueule (the author’s real name) and his life at home and at school in the late 1990s and 2000s. Eddy is gay and struggles to conform to what is widely perceived to be an acceptable type of masculinity in the small village where he is expected to go to work in the factory as soon as he leaves school. His mannerisms are routinely mocked by his peers and his family, particularly his father who even chose Eddy’s name because it sounds American and more “tough guy”. ‘The End of Eddy’ garnered lots of attention in France because Louis published his debut novel in 2014 when he was just 21 years old. However, aside from Louis’s young age and the unflinching descriptions of Eddy exploring his sexuality, ‘The End of Eddy’ also deserves acclaim more generally for articulating the reality of social exclusion in modern-day France so convincingly. Many thanks to Harvill Secker for sending me a review copy via NetGalley. Continue reading

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The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix Nathan Hill‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill tells the story of Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a thirty-something college professor with writer’s block whose estranged mother Faye is arrested for throwing rocks at a conservative Presidential candidate and subsequently portrayed in the media as a radical hippie. Samuel is on the verge of being sued by his publisher for failing to produce the novel he received a huge advance for several years earlier and in order to avoid bankruptcy, he must write a biography of his mother who he hasn’t seen for over twenty years. However, his quest for information about Faye reveals that she has a far more complex past than he ever imagined. Continue reading

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Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

Homesick for Another World Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Eileen generated a very mixed reaction among readers last year. However, I was one of those who really enjoyed (if that’s the right word) her debut novel and I was intrigued by her new book ‘Homesick for Another World’, a collection of fourteen short stories which will be published this week in the UK. The tales in this collection range from ‘The Beach Boy’ about a middle-aged couple on an unnamed tropical island to ‘Bettering Myself’ from the perspective of an alcoholic maths teacher in a Catholic school to ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ in which an aspiring actor in Hollywood falls for his landlady. Continue reading

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