Genres: Literary fiction, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Bottled Goods is one of the most interesting and unique books in the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 Longlist! It tells the story of Alina, who lives in Romania in the 1970s and is suffering the aftermath of her brother-in-law running away from communist Romania and leaving her and her husband to deal with the suspicion, interrogation and violence.
A bit under 200 pages, this took about a couple hours to read, and I highly recommend it to people who love a bit of magical realism! This was my favorite part about the book, how seamlessly the author managed to add magical elements to an otherwise heavy story, adding some whimsical and funny moments.
I didn’t love Alina very much, and mostly due to the style of writing I found it difficult to relate to her and get more emotionally involved in the story. The book is made up of chapters that tell short stories in themselves, and is meant to be read in a way that you can read just this one chapter and not the rest of the book but still get a full story out of it and, when put together, all those stories form a bigger story. So that was very interesting to read, but generated some disconnect, for me, from the main characters.
I thought this book wouldn’t be very memorable because of that, but I keep thinking about it, and it’s been a couple weeks now since I read it. The more I think about Bottled Goods, the more I like it. It challenged me a bit to read it, and I am sad it didn’t make to the shortlist. I think the magical realism aspect may throw people off, and if you’re not too familiar with that, maybe start with other magical realism books to get the feel of them first – like A Hundred Years of Solitude, or The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.