Review: Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector, English Translation

near to the wild heart clarice lispectorRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Classic Fiction, Translated into English

Goodreads

I decided to pick up Near to the Wild Heart in English because I was curious as to how Clarice Lispector’s work would be translated, her writing being so unique and at times impenetrable, plus the fact that I’d heard not very positive things about the translations.

This book tells the story of Joana, from childhood until adulthood, this girl who is different from everyone else, who is wild and full of desire and rage, instead of being quietly demure as would be proper.

Clarice Lispector’s writing, and Joana’s thoughts, are vague, poetic, beautiful and don’t always make much sense. I found it most times exasperating to read, and at other times meditative and interesting. It got particularly better (or easier to follow) in the second half of the book, where some semblance of plot occurs and characters interact more with each other instead of us just living inside Joana’s mind. I especially liked the interaction between Lídia and Joana, two character very unlike each other. Continue reading

Review: A Morte de Ivan Ilitch e Outras Histórias / The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy, edition in Portuguese [EN/PT]

a morte de ivan ilitch e outras historias leo tolstoiAnother bilingual review, I’m quite excited to write those! It’s been a while that I’ve read this much in my own language, and I’m enjoying it, it’s much easier to grasp the meaning of words and how the characters feel, even with old-fashioned writing and long, fancy words.

[English]

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Classic Fiction, Russian, Translated Fiction

Goodreads

This is the first time I pick up Tolstoy, whose writing I’ve always heard was rather inaccessible, mainly because of how lengthy the books are – so picking up his short stories seemed to me like a good way to get to know his writing before committing to such long books.

This book contains the following short stories:

  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich
  • The Kreutzer Sonata
  • Father Sergius

Continue reading

Review: The Hour of the Star / A Hora da Estrela by Clarice Lispector, edition in Portuguese [EN/PT]

a hora da estrela clarice lispectorI haven’t done bilingual reviews in a while, but since I read this very popular Brazilian classic, I thought it would be worth the effort writing a double review. The Hour of the Star is one of the few translated books from Brazil that English-speakers have access to more or less easily, so I am reviewing here the edition I read in Portuguese. I’ve heard that the translated work isn’t very good, and I completely believe it – Clarice has a writing style that is probably really hard to translate in the first place. I would be curious to see how the translation was done, but honestly, I’ve had quite enough of this book and would prefer moving on to her other stories.

[English]

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Classic Fiction

Goodreads

I recently re-read Felicidade Clandestina and was impressed by how much I loved Clarice Lispector’s short stories, so I might have come into The Hour of the Star with high expectations, but I was sorely disappointed. The Hour of the Star tells the story of Macabéa, a girl from Northeast Brazil who lives in poverty in Rio de Janeiro. The entire story is told by a male narrator that insists he is in love with Macabéa (although she’s fictional) and must tell her story; which is quite interesting, since he spends most of the book talking about himself instead. Macabéa, put into the background of her own story, is left with a collective of stereotypes and tragedy. She is the kind of character that is hard to root for, because we never really get to know her. After the entire book, I still felt like I barely knew her at all. In terms of literary accomplishment, this philosophical and introspective voice of the narrator is surely new, fresh and interesting, but it did not translate into a good book overall, for me. Continue reading

Mini-Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

we have always lived in the castle shirley jackson

Rating: ★★★★★

Genres: Fiction, Gothic

Goodreads

We Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of Mary Katherine and her sister Constance, who live their Uncle Julian in the old mansion  where the rest of their family died. The villagers hate them, but they’ve managed to have a quiet life despite the animosity. This will all change once Cousin Charles decides to pay a visit…

This book was such a deliciously whimsical, Gothic read! I loved it so much. Mary Katherine is one of the best characters I’ve read in a while, smart, a bit wild, and definitely up to no good. The atmosphere of the book so tense you always feel like it will all fall apart. Constance is a bit of an enigma to me, so kind and lovely but her involvement in the murders is not clear, so you always have a suspicion about her sweet temperament – did she or didn’t she? I loved also that there is so much talk about food in this book – there is something ritualistic about the way so much of their lives go around the meals they will have, especially considering the way their family died.

This short novel is full of mystery, witty dialogue and it’s such an entertaining read! If you’ve never read anything Gothic before, I think it’s a great place to start.

Review: The Trial, by Franz Kafka

the trial franz kafka

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Classic, Dystopia, Literary

Goodreads / Amazon

This is one of the books that German students seem to get quite often for their High School language studies, and I am very sorry for all the teenagers being subject to this complex novel. I went into it without much knowledge of the plot, and in fact I do recommend you go that way into it! The next paragraph, as per my usual reviews, has a short description of the synopsis, but please feel free to skip it if you’d like to read the book in the dark. Also skip the last part of the review (helpfully called Spoilers) to not have too much of the story revealed 🙂

The Trial is the story of Josef K., a bank worker who one day wakes up to find out he is being arrested for a crime that he is sure he didn’t commit, and doesn’t know the nature of. He then tries to find ways in which to make his case and obtain an acquittal, but there is never any progress, and just a long, maddening, pointless process full of contradictions. Continue reading

Mini-Review: Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

fruit of the drunken tree ingrid rojas contrerasRating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Historical Fiction

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Fruit of the Drunken Tree tells the story of two girls, Chula and Petrona, during the late 80s and then 90s in Colombia, when drug lord Pablo Escobar was active and fear was in the hearts of Colombians. Petrona, a girl who lives in the Invasión, a poverty-stricken neighborhood, starts working for the Santiago family as a maid. Little by little, she gets entangled in the violent, bloody plans of the guerrilhas. The two children of the Santiagos, Chula and Cassandra, are protected from the violence by the money of their family.

This was a gorgeous story, with fear, innocence and hope permeating the pages. I loved the personal way that this shows the reality of so many families in such fearful times. This is such a powerful story, even more so because it’s based on the author’s personal history. I recommend picking this up as a physical book instead of audiobook, because you can enjoy the writing better that way.

Review: The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: Classics, Gothic, Mystery

Goodreads / Amazon

I am not sure what compelled me to start reading this book, really! I have a personal mission to read as many classics as I care to do, since they interest me much in terms of understanding the society of that time and exploring different writing styles, and also because I like to start drawing similarities/differences between modern literature and classics of the genres. So maybe that’s why?

Also it was free on Kindle (see Amazon link above!), which is always an encouragement. Continue reading

Review: To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

To The Lighthouse Virginia WoolfRating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Classics

Goodreads / Amazon

This is not a book you can plunge into without knowing what to expect – if you love a good story, with a fast-paced plot, you’ll probably hate this book. This is far more a marriage of philosophy and fiction, full of flowing thoughts of the characters, their emotions spilled all over the internal monologues.

It’s unfair to give this book a simple synopsis, but here it is: To the Lighthouse is about the Ramsays, their eight children and a few friends staying over the Isle of Skye one Summer, and then the book progresses for 10 years, examining the relationship between the characters. Still, I suggest you read it if you love thoughtful, philosophical explorations of the experience of those characters, how they deal with loss, love, marriage, society expectations and so on. For the plot itself it’s hard to recommend the book.

Continue reading

Review: House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton

house of mirth edith wharton

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: Classic

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This classic was recommended by a fellow book blogger, and I was curious by it, although not entirely convinced. So I listened to it as an audiobook during my Kindle Unlimited month.

House of Mirth tells the story of Lily Bart, a beautiful girl at the age of 29, who worries about her need to marry soon. To maintain her luxurious lifestyle she must marry rich. She isn’t old money, and is well-aware of the limits of freedom and choice of her sex, so her suit isn’t as easy as she thought. Continue reading