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

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.

Dead Lands by Núria Bendicho

Dead lands by Núria Brendicho

Catalan Fiction

Original title – Terres mortes

Translators – Maruxa  Relaño & Matha Tennent

Source – Personel copy

I have had my foot of the pedal when it comes to new publisher and translations around. So when I first saw the new publisher 3Timesrebel. There is a motto in the book ‘I am grateful to fate for three gifts to have been born a woman, from the working class and an oppressed nation. And the turbid azure of being three times a rebel by Maria-Mercè Marçal so they have taken that motto to publish books from languages less published and from working-class females they have three books out I have brought two by them. The afterword Núria talks about her own reading journey from Catalan literature than into Spanish realism and then French Naturalism then by chance she happened on the works of William Faulkner and saw something in his writing she thanks all these writers. You can see the connection to Faulkner. It had been years since I read him but I happen to read as I lay dying last year.

THINK IT OVER, HE HAD SAID. IN A FEW YEARS, IF WELL-TENDED, all those lands, those fields and paths that came out of no-where, traversed the forests, encircled Roca Negra and extended further still, they could bring in good money, and they could be mine, have my name on the deed. It was simple. All I had to do was marry. A wife isn’t that much work, my father said in a hoarse tone, as if the comment just happened to slip out and he hadn’t been thinking about it for hours. It’s an opportunity.

The opening of Jon;’s father’s story.

I happen to mention the Faulkner I read as I have seen in other reviews other works by him mention but this dark story with its cast of characters it follows the event before and after Jon is killed when he has shot in the back in the remote village the family live the book is made up of the 13 stories from those that knew Jon and the dead man himself for me this rang with the style of as I lay dying as it has a cast of characters talking about one person. The narrators start with a couple of his siblings the youngest just called the boy and then Maria who is with the child herself but who is the father. Then Jon’s father as the story goes on we piece together the events and why was Jon shoot in the back who shot him and why. Then others outside the family a whorehouse own the priest as we head to the man himself his story is the last but one story. The last character is looking back as she is caring for a character in a hospice Tomas one of Jon’s brothers as he reveals things that happened when Jon died to his carer. This is a dark book and reflects a hard place. I was reminded of the attitude I used to see in the small pit villages around the northeast and some of the characters remind me of some of the people I met years ago.

FIRST CAME THE SHOT AND THEN DEATH. OR FIRST THE SHOT and then the suffering that led to my death. But above all, death. In the early days there was confusion, not only because it seemed even the living didn’t know who killed me, but because I didn’t remember it either. It was as if my non-body had forgotten what I had experienced because my mind was too preoccupied debating whether to leave non-death and enter non-life. I still had ears when I was buried, heard the specks of earth coming down on me, dusting my mouth, then someone weeping, and later the weight of oblivion interring me.

I chose the opening of Jon story as it hit me hard.

This is a hard gothic work that takes apart what happened it is a look at the moment I was reminded of a book like the anatomy of a Moment another book from Spain that takes a round view of the attempted coup in the 80’s in Spain. There is a nod to Faulkner that dark world and chorus of voices he had used so well in his books it reminds me I have a number of his books to read. Then a Peirene Press novel from Denmark they brought out a few years ago. The murder of Halland like this book it followed a murder and it was also more about why it happened the ones who don’t here get clues to the reasons but it is more what lead up to even the aftermath. This is a harsh world and like in another book from Peirene stones in a landslide. Like this is set in a remote mountain village where the locals are in their own world reality of their own with tough rules and consequences. so if your are after a gothic village novel about a murder this is for you and is stunning to think it is the writer’s Debut novel. Have you read any of these new books from 3Timesrebel ?

Winstons score – ++++A The dark side of the world of  Stones in a landslide (and you all know that is one of my all-time favourite books)

the Last One by Fatima Dads

The Last One by Fatima Daas

French fiction

Original title –La Petite Dernière

Translator – Lara Vergnaud

Source – Library

I love my local library it is well stocked and gets a lot of new books in so I often go and look for something I have missed or maybe just missed and this is one such book. I think I saw it around Twitter maybe when it came out. Fatima Daas is a leading new voice who sold very well in France and is a feminist she identifies as an intersectional Feminist. This is the pseudonym of the writer she adopted it in her mid-teens she was taught by the writer Tanguy Viel she went on to study literature at this time she also had her sexual awakening and its effect on her religion and family this is a complex work about growing up Lesbian from NORTH African family and trying to remain a Muslim. a stunning debut from a new talent.

My name is Fatima.

The name of a symbolic figure in Islam.

A name that must be honoured.

A name that mustn’t be “soiled”, as we say in my

house.

In my house, to soil means to dishonour. Wassekh, in Algerian Arabic.

Or daria, darija, our word for dialect.

Wassekh: soil, stir shit up, blacken.

It has multiple meanings, like “close”.

My mother would use the same word to tell me

I had got my clothes dirty, the same word when she came home and found her Kingdom in bad shape.

The opening chapter and the first time we see My name is Fatima Daas

This book uses the same beginning at every chapter MY name is Fatima Daas what follows is how she is growing and the struggles a young woman has growing up. During her school years, she struggles to fit in as a pupil going off the rails till she finds her voice in writing. Then her family and how will she fit in when she discovers her sexuality. Then this has a knock-on effect on her religion. she dreamt of being ani man and how can she aline herself with the values of the religion. How do you cope when you grow up as a Lesbian Muslim in Modern France? This is a refreshing take on the Bildungsroman. The pains, sadness and small wins along the way. The book is hypnotic at times with the repeating motif and the initial description of where Fatima is in her life at this point. Its a tale of how to break free and become your own person but also keep at heart where you are from and who you are! what you become and how you became.

My name is Fatima Daas, I was born in France, sometimes I spend more than four hours on public transport to get to class, work, a theatre, a museum or back home to my parents’ house.

I begin to take public transport regularly when I’m eighteen.

After a while, I experience “commuter fatigue”, the kind that induces a migraine at pretty much the same time every evening, that makes you prematurely realize that your body is aging, that colours your mood, prompts you to overreact, to complain almost as much as the Parisians, and to bursts of anger that are difficult to control.

It’s the kind of fatigue that makes you think about

“moving closer”.

A later chapter about being a commuter in Paris

This is a work that draws you into Fatima’s life with the repetitive nature of the chapters. It is like the drumbeat of Kodo drummer beating and driving the fragments of her life as we see a girl that should have been a boy to her father. Then growing up in the France of LE pen etc being Algerian and  Muslim been twisted by what that means when you sexually awaken to the fact you’re a girl attracted to Girls. This is a side of modern France rarely seen. How do you identify yourself this is how we deal with Labels we all have labels but do they define you or create you what labels do you show which should you hide? A great slice of Autofiction just after the master of Autofiction won the Nobel this is maybe this generation Ernaux a strong female with her own struggles and emotional journey like Ernaux before her. Have you a favourite work of Autofiction or a favourite Queer novel in translation?

Winstons score – + A this is why I read books in translation insight into other lives and places.

 

The Heeding by Rob Cowen

HEED

Orgin: Middle English Heden, Old English hedan, Old Saxon Hadian

Verb:

  1. To mind, to regard, to take note of, to attend to; to observe.
  2. to pay attention, care
  3. To guard, protect

Noun:

  1. Paying particular notice or careful attention tp advice or warning.

The Heeding is another of the longlist books for the Wainwright prize and is the second book of Poetry I have reviewed in the 13 years of doing this blog, it isn’t that I don’t like poetry but maybe I don’t sit and dole I had here and read Rob Cowen collection. He is a poet based in North Yorkshire, which I passed through quickly yesterday on my way up to the Northumberland where we are on Holiday and when I arrived I sat and read this collection of 35 poems that followed a year like another book win the collection it was written during the lockdown year and sees row Observations of this unique year and how it changed the world for tat one moment of time and both Nature and also the Nature of people. The book is also accompanied by a wonderful collection of bold and eye-catching illustrations from  Nick Hayes.

NOISES Off

Indigo sky pressing down like debt.

All cars quietened; nothing stirs.

Late spring status, abandoned, wrecked.

Hell of a thing to be afraid of air

Of touch of family. Of friends. Of work

To not leave home for four days straight.

This is the opening verse of Noise off

I’m never overly sure how to describe a collection of poems but in this one, I just decided I would mention a few of the poems and how I as a reader connected to them. First is the second poem which is called Noises off and is about the new silence of Lockdown we all remember the clarity of sound we all got during the day when there is no cars, no planes in the sky factories are silent the world but also a world of new fears and worries is as it once captured here b Rob and his words far better than I can. Then we have starling which is an ode to that little coal-black bird ( which seemed apt as I am staying in a former colliery village at the moment) this described maybe seeing afresh this little bird which is yes noisy and often in loud groups but when you actually look at this little bird it is so beautiful with as Rob puts it the iridescent purples, greens and blues, the rare hues of petrol on water when describing its feathers. I loved those images and yes they are as soon as I read those words I saw them I was also reminded that I want to see the murmurations (the patterns in a flight of starling of which a large roost near to me is meant to be a place to see this wonder of nature.

We forget that you one shimmered through the frozen air; ripple bird.

Shape-shifter, dusk dancer. Murmurer, sh=ky writer,

Endlessly becoming in the darkening Gold;

Animals, patterns, waves.

And how e wonderstruck, witnessed a nightly unity against death

The second verse of the poem starling mentions their flight of them in groups and the patterns and shapes they make which is so eye-catching and one of the true wonders of Nature.

Well I just mentioned two from this collection in depth the collection is bookended with two poems called the duel about hawks hunting and Hawks reoccur in another Poem that I loved about seeing them in flight whilst driving and Like Rob how often does this happen on a motorway I always nearly crash and often think which bird it was I know Kestrels well as I have seen so many of the years but as for other hawks and how to know which is which glimpsed against the sky I am never quite sure. He also shows how he was touched by ovoid from his personal experience to that off the loss of those around him near and also faces in a crowd like a man at his allotment. Rob captures those mad twelve months in these 35 poems with a poet’s eye that ability t see beyond to describe and in a time like that is what is needed in a time of Madness and the uncertain nature of the world we need a poet to be are guide to cross the river of covid to make sense of the currents and eddies of that river to show us what we missed those little moments in that time like a collection of items which ties into the start of the book which sees Rob describe his desktop and the collection of items he has a stone, musket ball an otter print. Well, this is his desktop of that year his collection of items picked up along that year. Do you think poets can be beacons in dark times to guide the world around us?

Winstons score – + A, a stunning collection that captures in Amber a once-in-a-lifetime year of wonder and fear.

 

 

Solo Dance by Li Kokomi

Solo Dance by Li Kotomi

Taiwanese/Japanese lit

Original title – 独り舞, Hitorimai

Translator – Arthur Reiji Morris

Source – Review copy

Over the years World editions have sent me some wonderful books and this is the latest from them and it is a gem it is written by Li Kotomi a Taiwanese writer that lives in Japan she has written in both her native Mandarin and Japanese which she started to study when she was 15 and went to university in Japan to study and has lived there since this was her debut novel in Japanese . She is known for addressing LGBT issues in her fiction and has won a number of prize last year she was the first writer to win the Akutagawa prize(aOne of the largest Japanese book prizes previous winners include most of the best writers from Japan like Endo and Oe and more recently Sayaka Murata. The main Character in this book is also a Taiwanese woman living in Tokyo.

She was drawn to Danchen the moment she saw those eyes. Though she was to young to understand the meaning of eve in even its most basic sense, she knew that squirming, rolling wave of emotion in her chest was the same one felt between those fairy tale princes and princesses.

She spent her days watching Danchen but never managed to exchange a word with her.

To Young to see what this meant it haunts her still in her twenties this and other events in here years in Taiwan.

Cho has end up living in Japan and working in an Office but this Taiwanese woman has a number of events in her past that we find out as the book unfolds.She is just at them moment trying to blend in as she tries to hide her sexuality at work where the talk is all of marriage and kids, She is a woman that is walking a tightrope and is always looking into the abyss of death as we she what in her previous life made her leave her life in Tawian. To set up a new life in Japan a loss in her past of a girl she loved a girl she never told how she felt. which we see the after math of this event  in the middle of the book where the book shifts from the observance of her life to her inner most thoughts and diary of the time and the event that lead to her going to Japan the loss of a close friend that she was in love with. this and another event which locks her off just as she should bloom as she goes to university This is a book that has many threads office life trying to be yourself in a world where people are expected to conform. A look at grief , mental health and how death can lie round every corner.  It is about trying to escape but do we every really escape what has happened in our Past ?

Her solitary nature made a lot of the fellow students on her course uncomfortable around her. Unlike most of her classmates, she had been studying Japanese since Junior high school and had already progressed to reading a lot of Japanese literature in the original, making her top of the class. This only served to worsen her solitude. Tachung Girl’s Senior High School was prestigious, and so a lot of its students went on to study at National Taiwan University, which meant that news of the assault a few months ago had spread among the students in her degree course.

We what has happened  to Cho sets her apart that event just before University

The turning point as Javier Cercas put in his essay collection The blind spot he says a lot of great books have that point from has with the whale for ahab our waiting for Godot there is that event never seen that is the turning point here it is the death of a girl Danchen the aftermath of which with another even more horrific event  is the whole kernel of the book and how Cho ended up as the Cho we meet. But it is a look at grief unspoken grief. The pressure of hiding ones sexuality and also a novel about growing up it packs a punch in its 250 pages as we wind up this year booker international maybe I have read the first book from next years list ? I was also remind of the main event in this book the loss of the girl she was in love with at a young age is a similar story to that we find in Tarjei Vesaas The ice palace where we see a girl coping with the loss of a friend she was in love with. For me the book is like the Art piece Shedboatshed (where a shed was made into a boat then back to a shed ) The image of a person taken apart as this even has done and then like in the piece sailed across the water and then rebuilt on the other side not quite the shed to was !! this is about how we can never quite come back to what we were when that event happens like the death in this book it is always there ! Have you read this book or any other book set in Japan by a writer not from Japan ?

Winstons score – -A a book that sees how grief and hiding our true selves can eat us up !

The booker international diaries 2022

Edited in Prisma app with Watercolor image from booker

Well it is time for the second part of the booker international diaries. its has been over a week since I posted the first part and am starting to work my way through the pile of books this year has been one where I have had to read more than others so it has been a new challenge to get through the book and indeed getting the books I still couldn’t find my review copy of Cursed bunny’s I ordered one from Hanford star but I was a little late as they sold out which is great news anyway it would be here and then next week Paradais comes out. I have read four books so far and reviewed two Happy stories, mostly , which i had and is one of the most refreshing collection of short stories I have read the story of a mother going abroad after her son had taken his own life struck me  and Heaven a novel about two bullies connections and a horrific suffering of bullying. Then I read The book of Mother by Violaine Huisman which is the one book I knew nothing about when the longlist came out it and is an intriguing piece of auto fiction about her mother that is one of those figure that is memorable and deserved to be written about. The I read the David Grossman which as some one that has read his other books was one I probably would have read at some point it is the sale of the generations of family that settled in Israel after leaving Yugoslavia over three gernrations of the females in the family it took its inspirations from a documentary that Paul one of the fellow shadow jurors pointed us in the direction of when we started discussing each of the books which we are doing all the time as we read them. I hope to post reviews this week of the two books I have just finished in the next week. I have just turned 50 a few days ago so have been spending time with Amanda over the weekend. I have also invested in a new laptop which I am using as my old Chromebook had only a couple of moths of software updates left as they only cover the software for 5 years anyway as I am wanting to do more on my laptop I invested in the whistles and bells MacBook Air my first Mac it will take me time to get use to the OS of this but that said I have had iPhones for years so shouldn’t be that much of a struggle I am reading the other book that was on my radar at the moment after the sun which had passed my by and I decided to start my reread of tomb of sand which I am still loving as much as the first read it has  a style that draws you in as a reader as it sometimes seems to take down the fourth wall and talk to you the reader which I like also it is seems to capture that juxatapose between generations well between the mother and her favourite son Sid as he has flown not just the Nest but also India I always like this sort of family insights the way time and just the speed of the world know drifts people apart and also takes them from that community and small world they live in I was remind of stories like Please look after mother and also one of my favourite films Tokyo story that show that generation gap as well as the world shrinks and people move and leave their home villages. I will leave you there it is another insight into the world of me as a reader, blogger and  shadow juror. Have you tackled any of the longlist this year o planning to if so which books ?

The end of Eddy by Édouard Louis

The End of Eddy by Édouard Louis

French Auto-Fiction

Original title – En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule

Translator – Michael Lucey

Source – Personal copy

Any of you that have followed this blog for any amount of time will know I am wary of what I would call the “It Book “. One of those books that seem to be everywhere when they come out and here is such a book from the current star of French Literature  Edouard Louis a young man that grew up in a small town in Northern France in the Picardy region. In a working-class family in a working-class town. His father had an accident and was unable to work making their lives even harder having to live off government handouts. Anyway, he has written a number of books about his life using that great French tradition of Autofiction so Edouard becomes Eddy Bellegueile from The small French town of Hallencourt which is also Edouard Louis hometown.

The Kicks to my stomach knovcked the wind out of me and I couldn’t cath my breath. I opened my mouth as wide as I could to let in some oxygen. I expanded my chest, , but the air wouldn’t go in, as if without warning my lungs had filed up with some dense kind of sap, with lead. They felt so heavy all of a sudden. My body was shaking, as if it had a mind of its own, as if I had no control over it. The way an agening body that is freeing itself from the mind, or is being abandoned by it, refuse to obey it. A body becoming a burden.

A descriptioin of an attack to him at school.

I was drawn to read this book when I saw it on holiday last year and read the Blurb. I am a fan of Autofiction, although I am not gay I was a skinny backwards kid soft-spoken and into arty things and had a stepfather that made my life hell so I knew that this story is one I would really connect with. We meet Eddy a young boy that is subject to Bullying he has always been out of sync with his family he is just one of those boys that like me at that age stands out. He also has a double-ended problem with school and home life equally being hard. From the Bullies that act him in school a particularly brutal attack in the school corridor reminded me of some of the bullying, I had school I endured at school. Then at home his father lack of accepting his son. We see Eddy’s life the poverty and the homophobia of the town are shown it is a place out of time with other places like many small towns and villages this place isn’t as forward as it should be. Will he make it through?

(WE would go there once a month, it was true, to collect the boxes of food they gave out to the poorest families. The volunteers grew to recognise me and, when we arrived, they would slip me a few extra chocolate bars beyond our allotted share. There’s our little Eddy, how’s he doing ? and my parents would tell anyone, no one, that we go to the food bank, that’s a secret that stays in the family. They didn’t realise thart I’d already understood, without being told, how shameful this was, and that nothing would have made me tell anyone about it. )

The family really struggle with money and have toi go to a food bank such a common occurance these days for so many.

But what sets this apart is how evenly he tells the story it is written with an eye that hasn’t painted the world with a biased brush no this is a view of someone in the eye of the storm observing the storm. The poverty, the bullying, the racism and the homophobia are all written with the sense that they can’t help their views and having grown up in a similar environment with the Bullying and a hard father in my stepfather luckily we weren’t as poor as Eddy to add to his woes. But this book is the first step in books like this that show the horror of being in the eye of a storm you can’t stop the storm only batten down and brave it then tell others about it when you make it to the other side a survivor of the events and that is what this is a person that got through those events and struggles when many others didn’t and so it is a powerful work. I regret leaving it so long to read this book in fact the same thing has happened today with another book. Have you ever left a book because of Hype or do you think it may not be a book for you? Do you love connecting with books on a personal level, for me this is what reading is connections inspirations and discoveries an endless journey we should all be on?

Winstons score – +A – A tough childhood told without prejudice even though they suffered it so much.

 

 

Vesper flights by Helen Macdonald

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

Nature writing

Source – Personal copy

I said to myself at the start of this year I need to add a couple of non-fiction books here and there which is something in all the time I have blogged has been thin on the ground I always see other Bloggers and Vloggers mention different non-fiction books and think I should read some of the books they have mentioned and I have always been a fan of nature writing but had only reviewed one book a year in the woods in my time blogging I had read a couple of other books A roger Deakin being one but not reviewed any of them anyway the second book from Helen Macdonald I brought last year when we visited were we scattered my mum’s ashes in Cheshire (which is an odd connection given the cover could be Jodrell Bank the radio telescope that dominates The area of Cheshire I grew up so the Linocut cover caught my eye). So I brought it last summer and the other memory of that day was a squirrel that was so tame it stood a mere couple of feet away as I place some flowers near when we scattered my mum’s ashes.

This creature was not what I expected, despite its slap of familiarity. It had the forward-meancing shoulder of a Baboon and the brute strtength and black hide of a bear. But it was not really anything like a bear, and what surprised me most of all was that it was nothing like a pig. As the beast trotted up to us, a miracle pf muscle and bristle and heft, I turned to the boy, and said, surprised, “It’s nothing like a pig!” With great satisfactionhe grinned and sad “No they’re really not.”

The meeting of a wild boar in the woods when it was reintroduced to the UK

 

I was immediately grabbed by her writing when Helen Macdonald talked of this collection as being like a Wunderkammern ( a box of curiosities ) this collection of Nature writing. that we get insight into how she first wanted to be a naturist the opening story talks of Nest and egg collection which Naturists used to do in the past but now seems so out date to the modern Naturist. I was reminded of Gald Durrel and his Amateur Naturalist series and book I loved when I was younger the way he collect things like Nest and eggs. Then we see how the reintroduction of Wild Boars makes walking in the wood different these days !! ( this also remind me of the film Beast of the southern wilds which had a recurring motif of an ancient giant Boar running ). An essay that touched me was her connection with a boy that Autism a touching tale of when they met. Then a tale of old Field guides which mention an old guide written about seeing birds through your opera glasses Elsewhere we see the effects of building on birds and An essay about Ants. Hares are the subject of another essay I was reminded of Moring in  Northumberland where I see the Rabbits and hares out in force near Alnwick Castle in the fields around as I walked my first dog.

The process of indentifying aniumals in this way has a fascinating history, for field guides have closely tracked changes in the ways we interact with nature. Untilthe earlyyear of the twentieth century, bird guides, for example, mostly came in two kinds. Some moralised, anthropomphic life hiostories, like Florence merra’s 1889 Birds through an opera-glass, which describes the bluebirdas having a “model temper” while the catbird possessed a “lazy self indulgence”. “If he were a man,” she wrote of the latter “you feel confident that he would sit in short sleeves at home and go oin the street wthout a collar.” The other kind was the technical volume for ornithological collectors.

Old field guide this made me smile with the description of  the old guide looking through Opera glasses.

I think you can guess from my description how much I loved this book I love books that make you think of your own experiences and I have always loved Nature I used to love walking in the Northumberland countryside and now these days in the Peaks I think it was Durrell’s book that opens my eyes and that is the beauty of a book like this is that it reminds you to appreciate the world around us and it also reminds us how fragile the world around is us is and how much effect we can have on the world around us. If you like nature writing I would say pick this up it left me wanting to read more from Helen Macdonald and also wanting to go out and observe the world around us again afresh. Have any of you read her Memoir H is for Hawk?

Winstons score – +A, A gem and uplifting read for a dull January day !!

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