I had a great reading month in August, even though I couldn’t read much during the final week because of flu. I read so much because I left my DS & dvds to get dusty, so I suspect I’ll read less in September while I sort out whatever mess the kingdom of Hyrule has gotten into in my absence. August was also Women in Translation month, and I’m pretty pleased I read 5 WITMonth books, though I didn’t manage to review them all. I think having a ‘project’ helps me to read more as a kind of motivation, so I might try more themed reading months. Anyway, in the order I read them:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (novel – Korean in translation)
Translated by Deborah Smith. This was my favourite read of the month. It’s a book broadly about trying to understand a seemingly incomprehensible other person from your own perspective, about the relationship between humans and nature, about misogyny, about violence, about mental health, and about wanting a different kind of life. It’s weird and beautifully written. Full review here.
The Wall by Marlen Haushofen (novel – German in translation)
Translated by Shaun Whiteside. This was a bit hit and miss for me. I enjoyed the second half but found the first half a struggle to get through. I think it’s a book you’ll either connect with profoundly or find a bit ‘meh’, and unfortunately I leaned closer to ‘meh’. Full review here.
Bret Easton Ellis and Other Dogs by Lina Wolff (novel – Swedish in translation)
Translated by Frank Perry. Though it’s a novel by a Swedish author, originally written in Swedish, it is set in Spain and does feel very Spanish. Though I liked the writing style and enjoyed reading it, it was let down by the less interesting final third so I didn’t love it. A good, enjoyable read that almost-but-not-quite brings it all together. Full review here.
Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (novel – Bengali in translation)
Translated by Aruna Sinha. This is a fragmented novel about a woman’s identity and sexuality. It’s disjointed and moves between realism and a kind of lucid dreaming. I just didn’t get it. I’m sure there’s lots in here to discover but I didn’t connect with it enough to want to try.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (novel)
I read this for a book club and was my only non-WITMonth read. Lots of people have told me this is their favourite book from child/teen-hood, so although I was looking forward to reading it, my expectations weren’t high. Usually, reading a book like this for the first time as an adult means it doesn’t quite have the same magic. However, this was incredible. It’s a very comforting, cosy kind of a read that’s also beautifully written. Although I don’t re-read books as much as I intend, this is definitely going to be one of those I reach for to curl up in when I’m under the weather.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (novel – Spanish in translation)
Translated by Magda Bogin. I don’t often like long, multi-generational novels, but I loved this. It’s by no means a perfect novel – some of the characters are a bit thin, most don’t really develop, and Allende definitely over-uses foreshadowing, but I don’t care. Though the country is never named, it is very clearly set in Chile, spanning the time from just after world war one to Pinochet’s rule (though he is not named). Like most multi-generational novels, it’s filled with family, romance, violence, and politics, but it’s also a novel about Chile, and it’s well worth your time.
Currently reading: Undying by Michel Faber (poetry)