Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac


Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac

French fiction

Original title – Le Colonel Charbert

Translator – Andrew Brown

Source – Library book

I was looking at what gaps I should fill in the breadth of the blog and it is classics from around the world I have reviewed a lot of French novels and novellas over the time of this blog but not many classic works from France I have always had in mind to work through the works of Balzac and Zola the two great figures of 19th century French literature. So when I saw this on my last library visit it seemed like a great foot in the door of Balzac a writer who wrote early in the morning and drank too much coffee over the years. This book sounds like it had hints of other books like count of monte Cristo where identity is an issue. The question in a time before photos and id are so tied up in computers how do you prove who you are.

When he saw the solicitor, the stranger gave a start, and shuddered convulsively like poets when an unexpected noise distracts them from a fertile reverie in the midst of night and silence. The old man promptly took off his hat and stood up to greet the young man; the leather lining of his hat was doubtless thick with grease, for his wig remained stuck to it without his noticing, and revealed his bald skull horribly mutilated by a transversal scar that began at the crown of his head and expired over his right eye, forming a long, thick, prominent seam.

The sudden removal of this dirty wig, which the poor man wore to conceal his wound, did not make either of the two men of law feel like laughing, as this split skull was such a terrible sight. The first thought suggested by the appearance of this wound was: “His intelligence has leaked away through it!”

“If he’s not Colonel Chabert, he must be a proud old trooper!” thought Boucard.

In The lawyers office a dishovled od man is he what he claims he is Colonel Chabert

An old man turns up at Dervile the lawyer’s office and he claims to be Colonel Chabert a long-dead Colonel a close ally of Napoleon. The staff in the offices wonder and tease this disheveled old man. He was a cavalry officer and is sent to the battle of Eylau. This is where he was seriously injured in the battle. So when he is found on the battlefield they thought he was dead so was buried in a shallow grave. When he awakens and escaped his grave and is reborn without a memory he is here to claim what is his in the time he was away his wife whom he had met when she was a prostitute has moved up the ladder and is now a countess with her husband a man of ambition. He has returned to get his life back and his wife and hopes Dervile will help him. But this is a post-Napolean era a new world.

The old man gestured with his hand, and seemed to he mulling over some secret sorrow with that grave and solemn resignation that characterizes men who have gone through the blood and fire of battlefields. Monsieur,” he said, with a kind of gaiety, for this poor Colonel could after all breathe again: he had emerged a second time from the tomb – he had just melted a layer of snow more difficult to dissolve than the one which had long ago frozen over his head, and he breathed deeply as if he had just escaped from a dungeon. “Monsieur,” he said, “if I’d been a handsome fellow, none of my misfortunes would have happened. Women believe men when they stuff the word ‘love into every phrase they utter. Then they come running, they dash here and there, they go out of their way for you, they plot, they corroborate your version of events, they do their damned best for the man they like. How could I have ever persuaded a woman to take my side?

He is a dirty old man now and not the dashing Cavalary officer he once was !

I saw this as a perfect intro to Balzac I do have a number of other books by him. This as a short Novella seemed a great intro and it was it isn’t a heavy story just a man trying to regain his life a sort of anti-Count of Monte Cristo a turn down in fortune. Chabert’s entrance into the lawyer’s office reminds me of Pip’s reaction in Great expectations when he sees Magwich. The book itself has been made into six films over the years you can see why it has a lot in a little book the war. The journey of Chabert from the grave to the Lawyers’ office alongside this is his romance and marriage to his wife. Then her life after she thinks he died in the war. Then the final bit him trying to get his life back and being mocked is where the book starts and where it ends in a way. Have you read Balzac where should I move on to next with Balzac

Winstons score – +A A slim intro in Balzac.

Black Foam by Haji Jabir


Black Foam by Haji Jabir

Eritrean fiction

Original title – “رغوة سوداء”

Translators  – Sawad Hussain and Marcia Lynx Qualey

Source – review copy

When I was offered the chance to review this I jumped at it as it is a new country for Winstonsdad but also I saw it was translated by Marcia Qualey anyone around the world of translated fiction will know as she runs Arablit website and magazine also has a great podcast she does around Arabic literature all of these is the goto place for ARABIC Literature. Anyway back to the book and to Haji Jabir he was born in a coastal town in Eritrea he has written five novels and is involved with other writers from his country to try and bridge the gap from his country to both the Arabic and African world. I reviewed a book earlier this month from WEST Africa about being a migrant from there well this takes us to East Africa. We follow a different route out of Africa.

He paused for a moment before admitting that he wanted to pay a bribe to be let in. He was afraid it wouldn’t sit right with her, but he decided to move decisively toward his goal, since she had been so frank with him. He was counting on her immense sense of gratitude and her willingness to help. And, as it happened, Saba brushed aside the points in his story where he’d feared she might stop. But then she paused on another matter. “Do you think money is the only thing that stands between you and the Falasha camp?”

His journey has many twists and turns

We follow one man’s journey from Eritrea to first a couple of Places in Ethiopia and then across the Red sea and on to Israel. But who is that man Dawood, David, or Dawit he is a man that changes who he is to try and get by in each new place to get near to the chance to get out and go to Israel. But this is a story of a man on the run that yes can fit in but over time every time gets caught he can be a Muslim, a Christian, and in the end a Jew as he wants to be with a group of Beta Israel the Falasha Jews from Ethiopia. He also observes things like how when he arrives in Addis the capital there isn’t a country ready for war in a way showing his isolation. He is the child of soldier that fought in the war and was in the army himself. we see his and the country’s isolation. He heads through to Gondar the area of Ethiopia where the Falasha Jews are from as he does like a lizard he shed a name and a way of life to make the final step to Israel but then he sees what happens when your skin is darker in that country. All this drifts in the book as thou he looks back at what has brought him to his final destination. As he drifts through the back alleys and darker side of Jerusalem.

The European looked surprised by David’s question. It took him a moment to realize he had emerged from the story, only to be dragged right back in. He almost answered and really, he would’ve liked to give an answer. But after a moment, he realized his dilemma. He had the choice to come closer, but after that, he wouldn’t have a chance to back out. Stories have one door through which we can enter, after which we spin in their world forever. No matter what we think, chere’s no escape from the stories in which we become entangled.

As he ends up as David he has so many stories but which is his real story.

I said I reviewed a book earlier this month about a man that failed to get out of his country but here we see. a man escaping his country but also who he is. What is in a name that is a question we see in this book does a change of name and who you pretend to believe in the change you as a person? But what is at each person’s heart can this one man get through it is about minorities whether that is Eritrean or Falasha the marginalized of this world trying for a better life this book looks at just one man’s journey but how many peoples lives is in this tale how many people try to follow David’s route in part as we see it told in flashback through the book his childhood the wanting to get out and the finally getting there and it not being what it seemed to him. Have you a favorite read from East Africa ?

Winstons score -+A We see David journey through the many skins and names he wore along the way!


Touring The Land of the Dead by Maki Kashimada

Touring the land of the dead by Maki Kashimada

Japanese Novellas

Original title –Meido meguri (冥土めぐり)

Translator – Haydn Trowell

Source – Library book

This book has two novellas in it I am only talking about the first novella as the second novella is connected to Junchiro The Makioka sisters a book I have yet to read so I will borrow this again at some point when I have read that book and review the second novella 99 kisses. And this is the first book I have read by Maki Kshimada she has won a number of big prizes in Japan Initially she was into Russian literature and then went on to study French literature and she also became an orthodox Christian priest as well. She is married to a feel priest.

Before finding her current position at the children’s center, Natsuko had been working part-time at the ward office. The job involved hardly anything more than stapling together the bulletin for a group that the office ran for local children who weren’t attending school. She wasn’t an airline stewardess, but she was doing the kind of manual work that as a child she had always wanted, so she couldn’t say that her wish hadn’t come true. Once the bulletin was ready, she would be handed a bundle of papers to staple together.And the person that made that bulletin was Tachi

Natsuko has partime mindless work as she tries to get by

The story is about a couple that is down on their luck in life. Natsuko is living a hard life. In the past when her family had wealth. But that was a couple of generations ago. but the money disappeared when she was a kid and her life became hard she has her mother talking about the past and other family members leaning on her.  then add to that she has a husband who because he has a degenerative disease had to stop working a number of years ago making their life even harder. so when she sees an ad for a spa weekend at a hotel that Her grandfather had visited with her mother she decides it is time she and her husband need time and maybe going there will kick memories of her family’s better times. So Natsuko and her husband Tachi yes he is struggling with illness but as they leave their life , I did wonder at this stage if the book could have taken a darker turn and maybe she had an idea of ending her life and her husband’s.  Whilst she stay in the Hotel Natsuko looks at her world and her life and sees thing differently and her husband’s courage and positive nature rubs off on her. This is a story of a couple reconnecting the world outside who had driven a wedge but when they step back the world changes.

“No,” Natsuko replied sharply. “Not at all. My family is a bit weird. So it’s okay if you don’t want to marry me.”

“Huh?” The pork cutlet that Taichi had been holding in his chopsticks fell to the floor with a silent thud. “But you’re the one I’d be marrying, Nathan. What a strange thing to say! You were so nervous yesterday. You must be exhausted. Let’s put it behind us. Just try to imagine the wedding. You’ll be so beautiful!”

Her family has a number of characters that drag her down and lean on her she is a women drained by life.

Natsuko is at the end when she decides to head to the hotel and you think the book could go another way I was thinking is this a Japanese take on the French Novella beside the sea that saw a mother head to a hotel at a seaside then do something but no this is a bleak tale that then starts to show how the power of being a couple can change things around her husband a burden but a man that has a huge depths he is one of those people that has a condition but then it seemed to unlock a positive attitude so when they get away from the family that with her drunk brother and awful mother in a place that her family had been happy it seems the past and her present as they grow back together over the spa visit. This is an emotional book about how ugly families can be inside but she captures the despair we can feel when the world around you seems like a wall holding us in with no door to get out of the spa is a tunnel memory of a door a different place, but also like a door suddenly is seen and grows over the time there  Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – B – a story that looks to head one way and the it turns.

My first library trip of 2023

I had a number of books tio return to the library a number I hadn’t got to so I decided to just pick novellas this time and hopefully I will be able to get to them they have such a great selection at our library, in fact, I think the last couple of years there selection of books in translation has grown which is handy for this blogger and for the readers of Derbyshire. so I will go through the books I have picked.

First up is Stella by Takis Würger this is a novel inspired by a haunting beauty called Stella (a real person) and a man that in the middle of world war two has come to Switzerland and is captivated by her.

Concerning my Daughter by Kim Hye-Jin is the tale of a daughter coming home in her 30s to live with her mother and the struggle with her mother’s view of how her life should be and her life. A Korean LGBT novel i love clashes of family old values against new values and ways we live so looking forward to this.

These are two novellas by the Dutch writer Gerald Reve he was a writer I had lonbg wanted to read but when I read the evenings I just don’t think that book and me connected I had read it twice and still hadn’t connect with it I had so wanted to love it. So maybe another book by him may work and I’ll go back for a third time to the evenings. I really want to like this writer.

I wanted another Japanese book to read and this Picnic in the storm by Yukiko Motoya sounds surreal collection of stories with the first about a female bodybuilder just sounded different to me.

I’ve heard a lot of Booktubers talk about reading Ferrante and I am reading days of abandonment at the moment and felt well this is short It may its time I try and read the rest of her books.I m late to the party but i got there in the end for Ferrante.

A middle-aged man on a trip to Montevideo falls for a woman he sees whilst out on a day tribe in the city just looked like it could be a fresh take on an aged old story of a older guy and younger woman.

Then is those chance books I saw this was from Dalkey archive and strangely is due out in a Faber edition next week I knew I had seen the name around it is from the 30s and is partly based on the writer’s own experiences in a mental institution after giving birth and getting psychosis I’m interested to see how different we treat mental illness now to nearly a hundred years ago how have we moved on ?

I think I may have been sent this book I have reviewed two earlier books from the same writer the Maurtius writer Nathacha both are different from the each other I love writers that evolve over their books this is a tale of a sister who steals her mother car to go and find her sister that has disappeared that grabbed me as a reader.

I loved a lot of the books Verso has brought out the last few years this won the Gioncourt prize for a debut novel and is based on an actual events and looks at France’s colonial past.

I’ve been trying to read Balzac for years in fact Balzac and Zola are on my list of writers to read more of so I thought this slim book may kickstart my journey with him. I have a couple of his longer books to read. I need to jump in and get him and Zola on my list of french writers I have read before it hits 200 books from France I have reviewed which isn’t so far off 60 books I think it may be a couple of years til I get there but no more.

Have you been to the library recently ?

So distant from my life by Monique Ilboudo

So distant from my life by Monique Ilboudo

Burkinabe fiction

Original title – Si Loin de ma vie

Translator – Yarri Kamara

Source – subscription edition

I have subscribed for a couple of years now to Tilted axis as they seem to be bringing out some wonderfully challenging and exciting books for us to read in English. So when they brought out their first book from Africa I was keen to see what it would be and when this was the book from Burkina writer Monique Ilboudo a writer well known in Francophile African writing. She is a writer and human right activist, She was in the documentary Femmes Aux Yeux Ouvert (woman with open eyes)where she read a poem about how men in her country are in charge of sexual relations and the effect that has on women in her country. She is currently an ambassador in the Nordic and  Baltic states for her country.

Everything went well the first few months. A carpenter friend had made a nice signboard for me: Business letters – Beautiful love letters – Debt recovery letters – All your letters – Cheap prices. I didn’t like the last line, ‘Cheap prices’, which he had added as a favour to me, but I didn’t say anything. Anything free comes with a price. My lovely signboard brought in my first customers, who, satisfied, brought in more customers.

Within a few months, my bench was never empty and Doulaye, the shopkeeper, thanked me for the customers who passedf me and went and sat on his high stools to order a coffee or tea or even an omlette or fried eggs while waiting their turn

His letter wrting business does well to start off with.

What she does in this short novella is capture so many young men’s lives from Africa it is a sort of universal warning and insight into the struggles and desires of young men told through one man’s world. Jeanphi is a young man who is a go-getter in a way as he sees his life outside his home this is the fictional African city of Ouabany is like many of the large cities of west Africa brimming with life and those wanting a better world away from it. He tries to make his way with the modern take on a letter-writer trade. Doing his letter writing in a cyber cafe through the net helps people connect but all the time there is a draw to that route many a man takes to North Africa to try and make the way to Europe and he tries and fails a couple of times but when he does he meets an older gay french man and connects with him and lives with him in his home back in Ouabany as he becomes his assistant will he ever get to Europe what is this relationship with this gay french man all about?

Comfort is a drug that enslaves quickly. It was just a year ago that I moved into the enchanting pink villa. Yet I had the impression that I had always slept in an air-conditioned room, in a big soft bed. Having a bank account that was never in the red seemed the most natural of things. Eating, not just to satisfy my hunger but also my whims of the day, going to the cinema, to restaurants, as I wished, living without worrying about tomorrow all quickly became habit. Above all, I had become accustomed to the respect and deference that people showed me. All that was about to collapse.

He lives the Lux life in the older man’s villa later in the book

I said this is a universal tale and I think that is why she picked a fictional city as it removed place from his story it could be Dakar, Lagos, or Ouagadougou  Jeanphi being drawn to Europe and the journey to North afirca and then the wait and see if you get the chance to get to Europe the most dangerous part of the journey. not this is one man’s journey but is actually everyman’s story of those that never even get to north Africa this is a tale of a man that does fail and tries again like many but it is also a look at the pitfalls of that journey and challenges. She also shows hope is alive in west Africa but life is hard he tries to get on but then his relationship with the older french man is maybe another darker side of the way people can get into Europe usually a female but yes men can also get caught up he isn’t gay but the man is and maybe this is a way to escape. This book uses short choppy vignette-like chapters that make it feel like a much larger fuller book than it is which is just over 100 pages. At times I felt lost but maybe that is the world of our characters! Have you read this or any other books from West Africa that talk about migrants’ journeys?

Winstons score – +A – A universal take on the migrant journey from west Africa and the pitfalls of this journey.

Leaves of Narcissus by Somaya Ramadan

Leaves of Narcissus by Somaya Ramadan

Egyptian fiction

Original title – Awraq Al-Nargis

Translator – Marilyn Booth

Source – personal copy

I was drawn to this book when I ordered it a couple of years ago as it had the mention of Ireland in the description and would be the second Egyptian novel that had been set in Ireland I had read Temple Bar by Bahaa Abdelmegid and felt this would give a female perspective on the same experience of leaving Egypt to study abroad. Somaya Ramadan herself had spent time in Egypt studying English and then she studied in the early 1980s in Dublin she went to trinity college which I  feel maybe where she drew inspiration for this book that also follows a female student from Egypt as she heads to Ireland to study and start a new life there. she had written a couple of short story collections before this novel came out. This novel won the Naguib Mahfouz medal when it came out.

I walked in the direction of my lodging, across from the train station, and fished out my keys, ignoring the source of that invasive scream. The noise that had now subsided distilled a single, terrifying insight: that what I live is not the condition which other human beings live. That my senses and my comprehension of life are not those of anyone else, of anyone else but me. Something very alarming was beginning to weave itself together there in front of me, slowly, growing to giant proportions as it came ever nearer, a fearsome cold tidal wave edging toward me to swallow me completely to bring darkness over all to bring stillness.

The arrival in Dublin of Kimi the sense of being overwhelmed is here

The book follows Kimi a sensitive woman that has the ability to feel the emotions of those around her and she is about to head to Ireland to study. This is the start of the book and it deals with the usual clash of cultures that a move like this can bring a person to the edge as she struggles to fit in the style of the narrative of Kimi and the world is a nod to Joyce we see her inner working as she settles into her lodgings at Westland row in Dublin as she walks a tightrope as she struggles with her mental health as the move is overwhelming to her as she is a fragile soul as her world and the lit world she is studying at times almost touch and blur as she tries to fit in an exile in a country with its own selection of exiles this is a classic slice of culture clash and also a nod to classic modernist writing.

The map of exile fixed to the wall was not a yearning for the homeland. There was no exile. All there was, in that place, was another homeland, another nation. A nation inhabited by its own images, its own brands of hypocrisy, its own deliberate silences and its own pretense, that it alone existed and that anything east of London or west of Boston had no real place in the calculations of geography. These were unknown reaches, better left unknown. The only condition was silence and the pretense that here was all there was

As I say being an exile is a theme in the book as both countries have had so many over the years.

Ramadan herself is also a translator of English books into Arabic, you can see the influence of that on this as one of the writers she has translated like  Virginia Woolf into Arabic. Kimi is like a Woolf character that fragile line between being there and losing one’s mind in the world she is in. That Woolf did so well in her books. It is also a classic look at culture clash and being a fish out of water. But alongside this is the culture clash of Kimi in a new country and studying there as well. There is a nod to the common ground of Egypt and Ireland being in countries with many exiles and being an exile from your own country in that country that has a lot of exiles in. This is like a Rachel from a voyage out or later characters from the waves had stepped out of a Woolf novel and become Egyptian in Dublin this is a fragile woman in a new world and has a wonderful amount of lit quotes it is easy to see how in love the writer is with English literature with a sprinkling of quotes here and there in the book. I said this is a perfect companion piece to Temple Bar another fish out of water this has a female take on that experience. Have you read this or any other AUC(AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CARIO)  books?

Winstons score – A – A lost modern gem of Arabic writing about being an outsider in Ireland

Women running in the mountains by Yūko Tsushima

Women running in the Mountains by Yūko Tsushima

Japanese fiction

Original title -山を走る女, Yama wo hashiru onna

Translator – Geraldine Harcourt

Source – personal copy

Another stop on this year’s  Japan in January is a modern classic from Japan Yūko Tsushima was the daughter of the famed Japanese writer Osamu Dazai although he took his own life when she was just one year old. She published her first book in the mid-twenties and this came in 1979. She went on to write more than 35 novels in her life. she was considered a feminist writer.But she said she liked to write about marginalized people like the mother in this story. she cited Tennessee Williams as an influence on her writing This book drew on her own experience of herself being a single mother. This book is also about a single mother and her first year after birth.

The small bed by Takiko’s feet was occupied by the bundle of baby clothes and diaper covers. She remembered the baby’s first cry that she’d heard toward daybreak. Several minutes after the pain had suddenly faded away, the sound had echoed through the delivery room and she had asked herself if it was the cry of the living thing she’d given birth to. The nurses had seemed to be attending busily to the baby near her feet. Soon it was taken from the room. Takiko was shown its face for a brief moment. It was bright red, but at the same time familiar somehow. She hadn’t seen the baby since.

After she walked through the town to give birth to her son.

The book opens with the main character of the book Takiko she is on her way to give birth to her baby. she arrives and gives birth this is a young woman that had an affair with a married man and then felt the cold shoulder from her parents there relationship is brutal at times as they try to get her to give her son away or even have an abortion to avoid the shame this is a county where there is a small at this time of single mother and most of the single mother there where from divorces and much older than Taiko so they felt she would be shunned. The first weeks after the birth she finds a sort of sisterhood of all those in the hospital ward with their newborns as well. The book follows her journey from her taking her son to the Nursery we get a diary of the events with a nursery view and the way Takiko is at home. The home is hard her father is a hard drinker and abusive but she wants to break free. There is a juxtaposition you see a woman struggling but overtime you see the mother appear this is a novel of a woman blossoming as she finds jobs and gets out of the four walls of her parents house and facing her own mountain, not just the mountain she heads up later in the book as she meets a man with a child a single parent at marvels at him as his son is disabled. This is touching insight into the trouble of being a single mother and the abuse women faced at the time and still.

So this was the house she’d grown up knowing, thought Takiko. The bathroom addition. Redoing the kitchen. The neighbours putting up a two-story apartment wing in their garden so that it loomed over them. Atsushi falling off the veranda–would he have been two at the time? And the time Takiko, then about four, tried to tie a ribbon on the cat they used to have and was scratched from her eyelid to her cheek.

As if on the point of leaving, she couldn’t resist summoning up these memories of her old home.

“Well, anyway, why don’t you lie down? Your bed’s made up.” Her mother appeared from the storeroom-Atsushi’s room–at the back of the house. “Are you hungry? I could make some ramen.”

The family home memories and also was very dark at times

This is an example of I novel the realist movement novel from Japan that had roots back in the late 1800s. She has used her own life experience as a single mother and built a novel around it. This also has a nod to Autofiction as well that great French Genre where writers use their own life to mine for their fiction. She has maybe written a female Bildungsroman about motherhood what we see is that first year a woman determined to have the baby struggle and then it becomes easier over time. She captures how the body feels afterbirth and how the woman re-emerges from the pregnant woman. I did wonder if the Kawano was based in some part on her fellow writer Oe he had a disabled son and they must have crossed paths back in the day. This is an insight into a family a mother  that is determined but struggles, parents full of shame about what happened and then there is the baby a woman going up her own mountain. Have you read any more of her books.

Winston’s score – A – stunning insight into being a single mother and the outfacing from that. Ican’t wait to read more from this writer

We had to remove this post by Hanna Bervoets

We had to remove this post by Hanna Bervoets

Dutch fiction

Original title – Was wij Zagen

Translator – Emma Rault

Source – Personal copy

Sometimes you see a book and then forget about it and then see it again and go I should got that book that was the case with this I went through a lot of the books that were in Waterstones post Christmas sale this book is one I had nearly got at the time it came out the middle of last year. As the subject matter had appealed it appealed as there aren’t many novels yet about social media that have been translated. The job of content moderator has to be a hard one this is the seventh novel from the Dutch writer Hanna Bervoets she has a wonderful website with lots of info about the awards including one for the body of work she has written so far. she has only this book translated so lets hope she has some more books translated. She lives with her girlfriends in Amsterdam.

were given two manuals that first day, one with the terms and conditions of the platform and one with the guidelines for moderators. We didn’t know at the time that those guidelines changed constantly and that the tome we received was already outdated when it was put into our hands. We weren’t allowed to take the manuals home with us, so we learned by doing. On the first day of training, a series of text-only posts appeared on our screens, and then, from day three, photos, videos, and livestreams. Each time, the question was: Is it okay to leave this up on the platform? And if not, why not? That last part was the trickiest. The platform doesn’t allow people to post things like “All Muslims are terrorists,” because Muslims are a PC, a “protected category,” just like women, gay people, and, believe it or not, Mr. Stitic, heterosexuals. “All terrorists are Muslims,” on the other hand, is allowed, because terrorists are not pc besides, Muslim isn’t an offensive term

The first day and what makes the cut and what is unacceptable according to the company

Kayleigh has taken a job at a social media company called Hexa part of a larger company she joins a team of content moderators, that view any content flagged as inappropriate or unsuitable(in the time of Musk taking over Twitter these people’s jobs are so important or else we go down a dark path) she likes her co-workers she even falls for one of them but this book is about the group here and the drip drip effect of the content and the constant pressure of what is acceptable and not and does you over time become use top this content so you let through the content you’d not thought about letting through at the start. Alongside this is a new relationship with  Babara then she falls for Yena a mismatched relationship. The coworkers take legal action with the pressure and sheer mental health issues this job causes them and also we see how each person has their own axe to grind from. Jewish coworker that gets into arguments and another coworker who is flat earth believer all add to a book that feels far more than its 130 pages.

That night we ended up kissing for the first time. After work Robert passed around another rollie, and at the bus stop we all took a swig from Souhaim’s stylish horn hip flask, so when we walked into the sports bar around seven we were still in high spirits- in fact, we were whooping as if we’d all won in the Olympics. Inside, some people were dancing. That was a rare sight in the sports bar, but Michelle must have picked up on her clientele’s mood and had cranked up the volume on the playlist all the way.One girl from our cohort was making out with a huge guy. It took me a moment to recognize him it was John, who always wore blue gingham button-downs in the office, but who was now swaying his hips in a soaking wet T-shirt, the fabric drenched with sweat even though it wasn’t very warm inside or outside.

They go out and that shared experience that leads to them falling off each other and being friends.

This captures what it is like to be on the knife edge of what makes the cut to be ok and what is demanded unacceptable to be seen this also shows how doing that as a job can be heartbreaking and heartwrenching and also cause those doing it to feel numb to the content they are viewing. There is a part she describes a sex scene and you sense how she has seen this content so often she even knows what will happen next. This is a book that did the rounds on social media given not social media content but for me, it is an age-old job of the moderator who viewed the video nasties and checked books for content. the police that watches videos. All these people have mental health from doing this job. It also shows relationships and comradeship in these jobs and how easy it is to have relationships with co-workers from the shared experience =but then there is also the side of that yes the shared experience but there is also the person as a whole that is outside that and that is what is shown in the two relationships of Kayleigh in the book. A book that captures a hard job and the outfacing of that on one person and the group she works with! Have you read any books about social Media?

Winstons score -B A great attempt to capture the social media world and its employees.

Before the Coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi


Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu kawaguchi

Japanese fiction

Orignal title – コーヒーが冷めないうちに, Kohi ga Samenai Uchi n

Translator -Geoffrey Trousselot

Source – personal copy

I decide to pick a less taxing book for my next January in Japan read and I choose this book that has had a couple of follow-up books written as I had seen it around since it came out a couple of years ago and when I saw a second-hand copy I pick it up with this month in mind it always nice to have something easy to read between those more taxing reads. The book was originally a play before it was rewritten into a novel and has since been made into a film. It won a prize when it was a play the writer has been a member of a theatrical group and a playwright.

The cafe has no air conditioning. It opened in 1874, more than a hundred and forty years ago. Back then, people still used oil lamps for light. Over the years, the cafe underwent a few small renovations, but its interior today is pretty much unchanged from its original look. When it opened, the decor must have been considered very avant-garde. The commonly accepted date for the appearance of the modern cafe in Japan is around

1888 – a whole fourteen years later.

Coffee was introduced to Japan in the Edo period, around the late seventeenth century. Initially it didn’t appeal to Japanese taste buds and it was certainly not thought of as something one drank for enjoyment – which was no wonder, considering it tasted like black, bitter water.

The opening of the second story in the collection. the cafe has been there for a long time!!

The novel is set in a cafe that has been on the back streets of Tokyo for years but this cafe is different as it has a secret you buy your coffee and then you are told by the server that when you drink the coffee before it gets cold and you will be able to travel back in time. The book has four stories of four visitors to the cafe. There first is a tale of a love lost and maybe a chance to stop that lover from going away to the US. Then a nurse Kothake comes in she is trying to find a letter her husband who now has Alzheimer’s had written one of the last things he had done before the worst of his condition had hit this one really hit me I am just a person that has my emotions closer to the surface and this story hit home.I leave the other two for you top find out.

Fusagi had early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and was losing his memory. The disease causes rapid depletion of the brain’s neural cells. The brain pathologically atrophies, causing loss of intelligence and changes to the personality. One of the striking symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s is how the deterioration of brain function appears so sporadic. Sufferers forget some things but remember other things. In Fusagi’s case, his memories were gradually disappearing, starting with the most recent. Meanwhile, his previously hard-to-please personality had been slowing mellowing.

Kothake husband he had written a letter before he got to bad to remember who he was!

As you may know, I tend to avoid hype books and this is why it had taken me so long tk get to this one I had seen out when it came out and the idea of the book is one I knew I would like the idea of reliving the past the chance to reset maybe even alter what happened is something that has appealed to me a like Adam Duritz said in the song Mrs Potter If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts and this is about that ghost of ones past the echoes we can relieve or reexperience or change stop that lover going find that letter etc the is a small bit of magic realism to this at times. The one problem is the book could have expanded the universe of the book out at times there is a sense of it being A stage play still as all the action is in the cafe which for a play works but in a novel, you could have let fly with the drinking of the coffee and time travel element of the book. This has two follow-up books because the format can run and run it has the same feeling of something like Call the midwife where we glimpse life’s hardest parts and this issue is the same it stirs the emotions of the reader and the second story touched me having lost my stepmother to dementia a similar condition the lose of the person before the loss of a person is so hard to deal with and the chance to reconnect must be reassuring as the want to find the letter. Have you read this or the two follow-up books?

Winstons score – B A tear jerker of a book but if you want a read a little different it is worth trying and can be read in an evening


The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro by Kanji Hanawa

The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro by Kanji Hanawa

Japanese Novella

Original title – Asunaroko Huntoki/あすなろ公奮闘記

Translator – Meredith McKinny

Source – Review copy

I should have gotten round to this book earlier from Red Circle had kindly sent me a number of their books they have brought out a number ion short novellas from Japanese I have reviewed two of the other books including another book by the Writer the Late Kanji Hanawa published a number of books in his lifetime. But the two are the only ones that have been translated there is a very good pdf all about his books on the Red Circle website. He won a number of prizes in his lifetime. This book is very different from Backlight, which makes me want to read more books from this writer let’s hope we get a few more in English over time.

Every morning, the young son of a certain feudal lord woken at a fixed hour when the doors and paper screens of his bedroom were drawn open, in undeviating order and with the same predictable clatter. Impassively and regardless of the weather, his gaze fell first on the tasteful courtyard garden beyond the window.

Next, his eyes lifted to the lowest roof of the corner tower and began to count off the pine branches of the round eaves tiles, their gold leaf flaking in patches, before he gave up halfway as he always did.Thus the young lord of the West Castle commence his day

The opening lines of the book. is all as it seems with in the court ?


The book is the imagined story of a real-life figure Lord Asunaro was a real figure he was the son of a minor lord in the EDO period of Japanese history this is a strange tale to tell as he isn’t a heroic figure he is a boy that has been kept away at from the upper echelons of the court and he is maybe a little naive he reminded me a little of Prince George in Blackadder if he had a little more of Blackadder’s bile in him. This is a boy that gets to the top but isn’t as he thought it would be as he has been stripped of power he is just a figurehead as he takes over he loves the woman from his first meeting woman to his fathering a lot of children to a number of women in his lifetime and the kids that followed. This short novella sees a man in the shadow of his father, a boy that never grows on the cusp of power. A boy-man on the edge of it. But takes over it is an odd little Novella but a different look at the Japan of the time now samurai or shoguns are just young men not quite equipped for the job. It is hard to tell as this is a subtle tale with little action, but it draws you into Lord Asunaro’s world.

The boy’s instructions in swordsmanship had begun back when he was eleven and still living in the main castle. The Lord himself was not fond of swordsmanship, which perhaps was behind his choosing to assign the now-retired Satomi Eizan as Instructor. Apparently stirred by this, Satomi Eizan grew boastful about a youth spent practising his skills throughout the land, and was inclined to deal with the lad in a rather offhand manner.

‘Okay then, try this,” announced Lord Asunaro one day handing him a pickled white radish while himself took up the wooden sword (The protective gear and light bamboo swords of today’s swordsmanship practice were yet to be invented, and only appeared and gained wide acceptance at the end of Feudal period.

The young man isn’t like other want him to be as shown here this is a time of strong men with swords!


I loved this I liked all of the red circle books they are perfect afternoon reads and this is what I did today I had planned to review another book from Japan but just wasn’t ready to so I picked this up as I had planned to read it this month. his is as much a character study as a historic work why should someone born into a position be right for the job as we know here in the UK at the moment we have an heir and his younger brother showing about royal families and their inner workings. As I said the main figure I though of was Prince George from Blackadder but with a darker edge to him but that same not fully grown into the world feel. Have you a favourite book about a royal family? or Have you read any other books by Red Circle?

Winston’s score – B A solid little novella about a historic prince not quite for the job.


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January 2023


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