I adore Women in Translation Month! It’s a great time to shine a light on Latin American books (hello, in case you are new here, I am from Brazil!) and find new amazing authors. I have a couple posts with recommendations for WIT already, so I won’t do a very extensive recommendations here, but rather a “here’s some cool WIT books I read this year and don’t talk about enough in my blog”, plus a few I will try to pick up this month.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura, translated by Phillip Gabriel
This is a sweet, sad but also heartwarming story about a group of teenagers who are not going to school for different reasons, and one day they all find out that they can go through a mirror and cross onto a fantastical world, where they are given the chance to look for a key and get a wish. This is such a lovely book about bullying, loss, trauma and healing. The language was a bit awkward and I did not love it but it did leave me with a warm heart.
Permafrost by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches
Basically, if I see Julia Sanches translating something, I immediately read it. Permafrost is translated from Catalan and I loved it. It tells the story of a young woman who is desperate to leave Barcelona. She is a lesbian, which causes some friction with her family, and is quite depressed. I really liked the humor in this book and its poetic prose, it was just so engaging and unique!
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
I LOVED this novel so much! It’s translated from the Japanese and it tells the story of an aspiring writer whose sister and niece come to visit – her niece refuses to speak to her mom, who’s obsessed with breast enlargement surgery. The novel is told in two parts, and on the second we get to see the main character ten years later as an established writer struggling with her second novel and with her desire to have children.
Higher Ground by Anke Stelling, translated by Lucy Jones
This is a novel translated from German and it’s such a quick read, at about 300 pages. It tells the story of a writer who publishes a book about her life as a poor woman who was raised to climb the social ladder but never did, and still tries to maintain the illusion to her children that they have the same means as their rich friends. Her book has serious consequences for her and her family, and it’s explored through the brilliant, elegant writing of Anke Stelling.
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha, translated by Eric M.B. Becker
This was such a fun novel about Euridice, a woman stuck in a marriage she chose because it was the right thing to do, living a life that she thinks she should, but not the one she wants. She has a brilliant mind reduced to a life of a bored wife in the 50s, this was a family epic so full of life, joy, loss, sisterhood and I adored it! I read it in English instead of the original Portuguese (it’s a Brazilian book), so I can vouch for the translation.
My Women in Translation Month TBR
The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer
I’ve seen this book on everyone’s lists for WIT the past couple years and it got me really intrigued – I don’t know much about this book except that it’s the author’s autobiography and it’s written in a literary style, so I am excited to read a bit more non-fiction and see if I can hop onto the Annie Ernaux fan bandwagon.
Synopsis: The Years is a personal narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present–even projections into the future–photos, books, songs, radio, television and decades of advertising, headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and writing notes from six decades of diaries. Local dialect, words of the times, slogans, brands and names for the ever-proliferating objects, are given voice here. The voice we recognize as the author’s continually dissolves and re-emerges. Ernaux makes the passage of time palpable. Time itself, inexorable, narrates its own course, consigning all other narrators to anonymity. A new kind of autobiography emerges, at once subjective and impersonal, private and collective. On its 2008 publication in France, The Years came as a surprise. Though Ernaux had for years been hailed as a beloved, bestselling and award-winning author, The Years was in many ways a departure: both an intimate memoir “written” by entire generations, and a story of generations telling a very personal story. Like the generation before hers, the narrator eschews the “I” for the “we” (or “they”, or “one”) as if collective life were inextricably intertwined with a private life that in her parents’ generation ceased to exist. She writes of her parents’ generation (and could be writing of her own book): “From a common fund of hunger and fear, everything was told in the “we” and impersonal pronouns.”
Lemon by Kwon Yeo-Sun, translated by Janet Hong
I’ve been really loving every translated novel by Korean authors I’ve read lately so when I saw this thriller available on Netgalley I immediately requested it. I’m excited to pick this up and I’ve seen people say that the author’s style is a bit hard to read, which made me immediately very curious.
Synopsis: In the summer of 2002, when Korea is abuzz over hosting the FIFA World Cup, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on is killed in what becomes known as the High School Beauty Murder. Two suspects quickly emerge: rich kid Shin Jeongjun, whose car Hae-on was last seen in, and delivery boy Han Manu, who witnesses Hae-on in the passenger seat of Jeongjun’s car just a few hours before her death. But when Jeongjun’s alibi turns out to be solid, and no evidence can be pinned on Manu, the case goes cold.
Seventeen years pass without any resolution for those who knew and loved Hae-on, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened.
Told at different points in time from the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon loosely follows the structure of a detective novel. But finding the perpetrator is not the main objective here. Instead, the work explores grief and trauma, raising important questions about guilt, retribution, and the meaning of death and life.
Trap by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates
This is the second book of the Reykjavík Noir Trilogy and I am SO excited for it. I adored the first book, Snare, which was a very gripping noir that really, really got dark. I am curious to see how the story continues after THAT ending.
Synopsis for Snare: After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.