Here is everything I read in August. I read quite a lot!
Women in Translation:
Since August is Women in Translation month, I decided to pick up quite a few books by women in translation. They include the following:
- The Pear Field by Nana Ekvitishimili (4.5/5)
Translated from the Georgian by Elizabeth Heighway, this book is set in a home for children with learning difficulties, in post-Soviet Georgia. The children there live in horrible conditions, and the main character, Lela is old enough to leave but has nowhere to go. She forms a bond with a younger boy, who is about to be adopted by an American couple. This was my first Georgian novel, and it was a really dark, bleak but entrancing read.
2. The Princess and the Political Agent by Binodini (4.5/5)
This book had been translated from the Manipuri by L. Somi Roy. It is set in the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur around the time it fell to British colonial hands. It tells the story of the princess Santombi, the author’s aunt, as she grows up in the royal family, rebellious and unwilling to accept traditional gender roles. It also describes the conflict between the royal family and the British, and Santombi’s romance with a British political agent. A really interesting look at a different time and place.
3. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shookafeh Azar (4.5/5)
This book has been translated from the Persian, and I am a bit confused about who the translator is. I couldn’t find the translator’s name anywhere on the book, and when I looked it up, the translator is said to be anonymous, but Goodreads lists the translator as Adrien Kijek. Anyway, this follows an Iranian family who moves from Tehran to the countryside after the Islamic revolution. Told from the point of view of the ghost of a dead girl, this book uses magic realism to tell the story of deeply troubled times.
4. Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga (5/5)
This is another book dealing with a difficult subject matter It follows the author’s life growing up in Rwanda as a part of the persecuted Tutsi community. She talks about her life, how she had to leave her country and how she lost her family in the Rwandan genocide. Translated from the French by Jordan Stump
5. Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata (3.5/5)
Sayaka Murata is one of my favourite Japanese writers, and so this collection of short stories was one of my most anticipated books. This is a collection of really weird stories. Most of the stories deal with individuals who do not fit in with society. I thought it was a really interesting read, though it got repetitive at times.
6. The Passion according to G.H by Clarice Lispector (3/5)
This book, by a Brazilian author, and translated from the Portuguese by Ronald W. Sousa was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read. It follows a woman, known only as ‘G.H’, and her obsession with a dead cockroach. To be honest, stream of consciousness experimental type books are really not my type.
7. Shake the Bottle by Ashapurna Debi (4/5)
Translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha, this was a collection of short stories, all centred around the lives of Bengali women. Was an interesting read.
8. Happening by Annie Ernaux (5/5)
This was my second ever Annie Ernaux. Translated from the French by Tanya Leslie, this tells Ernaux’s tale of getting an abortion in 1960s France when it was illegal. A hard-hitting, relevant tale.
9. The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (4.5/5)
Translated from the Japanese by Meredith Mckinney, this book is different from all other books here. For one, it had been written in the eleventh century. It is the diary of a lady-in-waiting in the Heian court. Full of lists and descriptions, it is a meditation on the rhythms of Heian upper class life. A very pleasant read.
10. The White Book by Han Kang (4/5)
Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, this book if a meditation on the colour white, as well as an exploration of grief for the author’s sister who died as an infant. A short, lyrical read.
11. Rumours of Spring by Farah Bashir (4.5/5)
This was a hard-hitting memoir that dealt with Farah Bashir’s childhood in conflict-ridden Kashmir. Not an easy read, but a powerful one.
12. Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu (4.5/5)
This was a collection of short stories translated from the Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao. They deal with weird themes and a lot of them have queer elements. I thought it was a pretty interesting read.
13. Nanny for the Neighbours by Lily Gold (4.5/5)
So…..this was the first ever reverse harem romance I had ever read and it was…..really good! This follows a nanny who gets hired by her hot neighbours to help look after the kid that got dropped on their doorstep. Yeah, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but this book was super well written and enjoyable.
14. Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (3/5)
This was a rather quirky story following an Asian-American actor who is trying to make it as the biggest role in a cop show that is accessible to someone like him-the kung Fu guy. Structured like a screenplay, this was a humorous look at the Asian-American experience, that also dealt with racism and xenophobia.
15. Things We Do Not Tell the People We Love by Huma Qureshi (4.5/5)
This was a quiet, profound collection of short stories set mostly in a British-Pakistani milieu that dealt with relationships, family, love etc.
16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (5/5)
This is my second ever Edith Wharton (my first was The Age of Innocence), and it didn’t disappoint! It tells the story of Ethan Frome, a farmer who lives with difficult, hypochondriac wife Zeena, and finds himself infatuated with Zeena’s cousin who’s there to help with the housework. It is interesting how both the Edith Wharton books I’ve read deal with married men falling for their wives’ cousins. It was a great read, and I am looking forward to reading more Wharton.
17. A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes (4.5/5)
This was a collection of loosely-connected episodes that deal with various incidents. The first story is set in Noah’s ark, and ships and the story of Noah’s ark form a common thread throughout the book. I thought it was brilliant.
18. Perfect Nine by Ngugi Wa Thiongo (4/5)
This book, translated from the Gikuyu by the author, is a retelling of a Gikuyu legend-that of the daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi and how they find partners for themselves. Written in verse, I thought it was quite interesting. The only thing that confused the hell out of me was why it is called ‘The Perfect Nine’ when there were actually ten daughters. It said that the nine, with the youngest daughter added to them became the ‘perfect nine’ which really did not make sense to me. But perhaps it makes more sense in the original Gikuyu.
19. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
This was a work of science fiction where there were infinite parallel worlds you could ‘step’ onto. A fun concept.
20. The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (5/5)
This was probably my favourite read of the month. It follows the life of an ordinary banker who decides to leave his family to pursue art. A sharp, intense and engaging story.
21. Under the Greenwood Trees by Thomas Hardy (3/5)
August was a great month for classics! This was the story of a church musician Dick, who falls in love with the schoolmistress Fancy. Not much happens in this book though. There was also a chapter about ‘nutting’, which apparently meant gathering nuts, with lines like ‘Never man nutted as Dick nutted that afternoon.’ Yeah, I’m immature.
22. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (3/5)
I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. It is about two men who are obsessed with cults and conspiracy theories, and while I find that really interesting, I found the plot really difficult to follow.