October is almost here! Can you believe it? Here it’s definitely Fall, it’s quite cold by now where I live, and it’s the best time of the year to read something a bit spooky, a bit dark. I enjoy picking up thrillers, horror and generally anything that is engrossing and lends itself well for several hours of reading under a blanket. I know it’s not Women in Translation Month but let’s face it, every month should be WIT month, so here we are.
If you’re looking for a dark thriller:
The Resting Place by Camilla Sten, translated from Swedish by Alexandra Fleming
I feel like this is a very good follow-up if you liked Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney because both books have a main character who have face blindness and where this plays a huge part in the novel. They’re also books for people who enjoy twisty thrillers and dual timelines. The Resting Place takes place in the 1960s with Anushka’s story, a cousin from Poland who works as a maid for her horrible relatives, and current day, when Eleanor watched her grandmother die, saw the murderer, but due to her face blindness can’t tell who it was. As Eleanor tries to figure out who the murderer was and comes across Anushka’s diary, she starts to uncover dark family secrets that are decades old.
Snare by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated from Icelandic by Quentin Bates
Oh if you want a noir, you’ve come to the best trilogy! Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and her son after a messy divorce and ends up smuggling cocaine into Iceland to make ends meet. She quickly finds out the job is far more brutal than she expected and much harder to leave. This is an incredible, dark, complex (but not like, too complex to follow, nor too dry) series that had me turning pages nonstop – all books are also very short, so they’re quick to get through and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever read a series quite like this before. I got a copy after reading Callum’s review and I’m so glad I did.
Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan, translated from French by George Miller
I remember finding this quite eerie and fun to read – a slow burn thriller that reads more like a phychologically tense mystery, quite character and relationships-focused, according to my review from four years ago. about a writer who is overwhelmed by the success of her last novel, and ends up befriending a charming, sophisticated woman. As their friendship grows, the writer starts to notice that her new friend seems to be slowly taking over her life, writing her emails, taking over her relationships. I really need to re-read this!
Honorable mentions: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk is more a mystery than a thriller but very good; if you’re looking for something less dark but still murder-y and more of a fun read, I recommend An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten.
I’d like also to mention a few thrillers I haven’t read yet but sound great: Confessions by Kanae Minato, Out by by Natsuo Kirino, The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun, Delirium by Laura Restrepo, People Like Them by Samira Sedira.
If you’re looking for horror:
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
If you’re looking for some proper horror, then you might want to give this new release by Mariana Enriquez a try. This is the story of a young boy who has inherited his father’s dark talents, like talking to the dead and to demons, and for that they’re both wanted by the Order and must find a way to escape them. It’s set during the Argentinian military dictatorship and, as all Mariana Enriquez’ books go, it gets pretty dark.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated from Korean by Anton Hur
If you hate feeling comfortable and love it when a book leaves you disturbed and maybe a bit grossed out, then Cursed Bunny is for you. I don’t usually enjoy “gross” horror, but this was such an amazing collection of stories that use fantastical horror as a way to tackle many real-life social issues, I highly recommend it.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes
This is an intense, claustrophobic, feverish, dark story. It’s also one of my favorite books of all time. It tells the story of the Witch – found dead in a small village in Mexico, murdered. The novel then proceeds to explore the characters in the vilalge, the Witch’s life and how the murder occurred. It’s an exploration of humanity, misoginy and violence, in a village brutalized by poverty and prejudice. I loved this, but it does require you to be in a certain headspace because it can quickly become a lot.
Honorable mentions: Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Eartheater by Dolores Reyes and Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez.
A few books I want to read: Girls Against God by Jenny Hval, Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha.
If you like it a bit weird and dystopian:
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell and Eugenie Schoolderman
This is my favorite book by Samantha Schweblin! It tells the story of a dystopia in which “kentukis” (stuffed animals with a camera connected to a server, controlled by someone anonymous) are everywhere. The story follows a few different kentukis, the people controlling them, and the people who own them – from helping a child be rescued to falling in love with their owners, the humanity really shines in this novel. It’s weird, sensitive, intense and fascinating.
Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
I had such a great time reading this one – it’s weird, unsettling, a bit spooky at times. At its core, Life Ceremony is about loneliness, relationships and the experience of being human. It showcases brilliantly the strangeness of our normality but experimenting with some dystopian scenarios of what could become normal in a slightly different society from ours. I really enjoyed these stories and I think it’s a great choice if you want something a bit weird, a bit strange, but don’t want to delve in to a full-length sci-fi, but rather just something a bit experimental.
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, translated from Spanish by Sarah Moses
Okay, so I finished 1984 and have been looking for a book that would do what that book did ever since. I tried lots of dystopias, but none came close – until Tender is the Flesh. If you’re looking for a dystopian book that is full of social commentary and a dive into the main character’s psyche, a story that seemed so real. It’s about a world where eating human flesh is legal, and resolves around a main character who works in a meat processing plant but one day finds himself getting more emotionally involved with one of the humans he’s supposed to see as meat. This is bleak, thrilling and one hell of a ride.
Honorable Mention: Terminal Boredom: Stories by Izumi Suzuki.
A few books I want to read: Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan, City of Ash and Red by Hye-Young Pyun, Metropolis by Thea von Harbou.