That’s how whales are born by Anxos Sumai

THAT’S HOW WHALES ARE BORN

That’s how whale are born by Anxos Sumai

Spanish fiction

Original title –Así nacen as baleas

Translator – Carys Evans-Corrales

Source – review copy

Anxos Sumai is regarded as one of the best writers from Galicia in Spain. She has written four novels and also worked as a radio journalist. She was voted Galician writer of the year in 2007 the year this book came out it also won a prize for short novels. This is another in the series of books that have been sent to me from Small station press who are bringing to us so many new voices from Galicia.

Mother had just turned fifty-five when she decided to lock herself up in her bedroom. The stores had been functioning for a long time without her assistance and were doing well – very well.It was time for her to fall into one of those agonizing maelstroms, because this how it had been throughout her life, When she locked herself into her room she was defeated, yearning to be transported th some place where destiny would be waiting for her. It didn’t matter where: Mother always needed a destiny to set herself into action, to relinquish the voluntary self-exile she would impose on herself when neither death nor her loved pnes could move her at all .

The motherlocked away from her life and the world in pne trying to give up .

The book follows a young woman journey home. Having escaped her family and living in Baja California Mexico where she is studying Marine biology.In particular to do with whales that do crop up as a recurring thought in her mind. The girl receives a call from her Aunt that her mother a figure whom she had numerous problems with her mother. As she returns we found out about her past the mother who never seemed to recover from the husband that left her even now she has shut out the world and lives in her room. The older brother Ramon, a fat boy with a violent temper and disability that is always eating in her mind and then sleeping this was the time they could get around him without him lashing out. The whale at times is a figure she uses for her brother, with the vast appetites. Add a caring Nann the Aunt and Uncle we see a woman struggling to readjust t0 her home but also seeing those around her after returning.Maybe time is right. She is caught up in an affair with her tutor.

Except that the little girl barelyunderstood anything she was being told when Ramon interrupted them, Excuting turns at the entrance to the kitchen, ramon looked like a fat, flabby potato that gyrated and gyrated until he hit one of the walls. The little girl burst out laughin. Ramon made her ;laugh all the time, unless he was asleep.It was like having a clown all to herself, a joyful clown weighing over one hundred kilos.ramon could eat her up if he wanted to. He could eat her up in the same way he could eat a roasted capon all by himself.He could even flatten her when he breathed.

The brother larger than life like a whale a mystery at times

This is an interesting study of a family a modern family. This maybe shows who the dynamics work when there is no father. The problem of having a large than life figure in that of the brother Ramon. He may be overshadowed the narrator(I sense this we never even know her name). THere is a feeling of her runaway but the elastic of her home never quite breaking and being flung back into the family. But with her eyes opened by the trip to Mexico and also maybe having spent time with whales she sees more in her brother Ramon than she did. This is a book about memories the writer has said in interviews also she wants us the reader to draw our own view on the family.The title came from the time she imagined Ramon spending in the tub a fat boy in the tub and a whale ! I really like this book as it does what she wants us as a reader to do and that is thinking about the characters and the situation of an unnamed girl returning to her odd family.

 

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An Animal called Mist by Ledicia Costas

 

AN ANIMAL CALLED MIST

An Animal Called Mist by Ledicia Costas

Spanish (Galician) fiction

Original title  FF

Translator – Jonathan Dunne

Source – Personal copy

Well it is near the end of the second month of Spanish lit month and the end of woman in translation month so I decide to combine both with this review another from the small publisher Small station who have been brought out the brightest voices from Galician in the last few year I have reviewed a number of their books this is another and a new writer to this blog. Ledicia Costas has mainly written for YA and has won prizes for her books including the Galicia prize from Children’s literature. She has also written for TV working in documentaries in particular (according to Wiki).

There’s one part however, that not only impresses him, it bores a hole into his chest: the monlogue by Captain Quint a survivor of the world war II USS indianapolis disaster, relating thr sinking of the ship that carried the uranium and partd of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima to the Mariana Islands. Three minutes abd Forty-seven seconds during which Hunter remains on the alert his fist clenched, his senses fixed on the television screen in a kind of paranormal connection woth Captain Qunint .

Whilst watching JAws Hunter learns of what happen to the Uss idianapolis but wants to know more.

This is a collection of six stories all focus on the second world war. From the opening tale in Leningrad following how the people of the city coped with the famous siege. Then one of those strange things happened that when we are reading books the second story in the collection recounts events on the Uss Indianapolis from the point of view  of someone trying to find out about the ship Hunter Scott  heads to the library the ship was sunk near the end of the war by two torpedos and was the single greatest loss of life for a single ship in the war. This strangely I was reading this last week when the team funded by Paul Allen found the ship itself on the sea floor. THe next story follows the events before and after Enola Gay drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the plane following the pilot, student at school an engineer on the train. The two other stories in the collection one follow Italian Partisans and the other uses the actual dialogue of the trials of three Nazi post war including the trial of Goring.

On the morning of 6 August, Aiko, a pupil at the femine school in Hiroshima, had gone out with her friends to do some outdoor acivites. They walked in the vicinty of the river Ota, obvious to the world, in search of flowers to make garlands. It was only a few days until the Floral offering, a festival of colour that celebrated the gifts of nature

The morning waqs a mirror of calm in the surroundings of the river.This was a special place foor Aiko.

On the day the bomb was dropped on the city a girl collects flowers by the river.

This is a collection of voices and stories from the war that don’t read like history but actual events although she seems to squeeze the story around the events, I like the way she choose the every man to show the nature of the human condition and a child  trying to discover about the Indianapolis as they don’t believe it actually happened and this is maybe what can be said about this collection it shows that Truth is often stranger than fiction. We see the fragility of life at times those souls on the ground before the bombs arrive and then the other side of nature the brutal side with those voices from the Nazi trials. This shows what is called Great prose elsewhere those tales that walk the fine line between fiction and non-fiction.

 

Inventing Love by Jose Ovejero

 

Inventing Love

Inventing Love by Jose Ovejero

Spanish fiction

Original title – La invención del amor

Translators Simon Deerholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles

Source – Review copy

Well, I reach the last of the Peter Owen World series of books for Spain the second in a series they are doing three books twice a year from one country. I have now reviewed all six of the books. Simon Smith from Peter Owen was interviewed about the series recently on LARB  about the books so far and what is to come in the series. Jose Ovejero is a prize winning Spanish writer, he has written seven novels so far and this is his second book to be translated into English. This book Inventing love won the Premio Alfagura de Novela prize in Spain one of the biggest prizes there.

“What’s up?”

“I’m sorry Samuel, I’m really sorry,”

“I think you have got the wrong number “, I say , but my conviction falters when I realize that he’s calling me by my name .

“It’s about Clara.This evenong .Not long ago.Fuck ,I’m sorry.”

“Clara”, I say and I rack my brains, thinkinh that I don’t want him to hang up yet .Before I go to sleep I need to hear this story which is not my story, precisely so that it can become mine, too just as we read a novel in order to add storie to our lives, stories which , however dramatic they may be, are acctually innocuous, we think, because they can’t really affect us

Samuel drawn in straight away to the story of Clara like a Novel he thinks .

This book is based on what happens when a man Samuel in his forties gets a call out of the blue telling him a woman called Clara, the assumption that Samuel was her secret lover. He wasn’t but then decides to find out how the mistake happened and go to the Funeral and decides to invent the past these two had but never had. He meets at the funeral Carina the sister of Clara and she gives him a lift home.He feels bad for lying to her when she drops him off and the sense of closeness he has got to Carina, As the two are drawn together the imagine the past becomes too real at times and maybe stands in the way of moving forward. What happens when you Invent Love ? does Real love survive it?

I read the name on the card – Carina Alvarez – and suddenly I feel uncomfortable. I get the sensation that i’ve gone too far, althoug I also feel relieved that I ‘ve managed to get out of a tight spot rather well.For the sake of something to do, I take a card from my wallet as well and hand it to her, as if we ewere in a buisness meeting meeting , except the only thing written on my card is mynname, telephone  number and email.I’ve never liked buisness cards.She takes it reads it and leaves it on the dashboard.

“I’m pleased to have met you at last, even if the ocasion …Im mean …what a mess”

Samuel firstr meetinmg Clara sister at the fueral, where he likes Carina …

What I loved about this book is that it isn’t a straightforward love story. The real story is of  Samuel and Carina but then there is an imagined love story and the real sense of this almost being a pulp thriller at times as the story unfolds and Samuel discovers more about Clara and Carina he has to move like a detective and adjust his present and also his imagined past.This is one of those stories that happens from those moments that can happen by accident would we do what Samuel did in his position ? that is the question can the lie be kept alive through out and not be caught out.

That was the month was July 2017

  1. The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel
  2. Love and Garbage by Ivan Klima
  3. Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas
  4. The hive by Camilo Jose Cela
  5. The Irish Sea by Carlos Maleno
  6. Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
  7. Wolf Moon by Julio Llamazares
  8. The secret of Evil by Roberto Bolano
  9. Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado
  10. Before by Carmen Boullosa

I manage to read books from 6 countries last month. I also read from one new publisher New Vessel a press, I had been wanting to try so was pleased to get a paper edition of one of their books. I started my new job this month and I am now doing three long days a week doing 13 and half hour days which will take some time to get a new blog routine. I fully started last week of the month as I had 19-day training last month. Anyway back to the blog we got off to a good start with Spanish lit month. I managed to read 8 books for that and expanded it out next month to include Portuguese lit into the Spanish lit month.

Book Of July

Image result for the hive camilo jose cela

The Hive was my book of the month the second book by the late Nobel winner Camilo Jose Cela was a book buzzong with life of post civil war Spain an undercurrent of the anger that was just below. It was one of two books about the civil war the second was Wolf moon also following a post civil war that with people on the run and hiding from Franco’s forces.

Non Book discovery

I have to keep harping back on to Mark Kozelek band Sun Kill Moon released a second collaboration with British experimental band Jesu. This like his three most recent records is Mark singing about his life and day to day events around him, he has become in some ways the Thomas Bernhard of alt rock in these recent albums a vent of anger at times and also a world wide view. This is just a singer at the peak of his songwriting.

Here is one of my favourite tracks a one with a number of Lit references in it as he received a book from a fan that is a bit of a beat hipster in the way he looks.

Before by Carmen Boullosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before by Carmen Boullosa

Mexican fiction

Original title – Antes

Translator – Peter Bush

Source – Personal copy

So now on to Mexico in this years Spanish lit month and the debut novel from Carmen Boullosa which came out in 1989.Carmen Boullosa is both a poet and novelist, she has written 17 novels so far and there is seven of those available in English translation. Two of which including this is from Deep Vellum, I have reviewed ebooks from them but have fallen out of love with ebooks and haven’t reviewed them. So as I have had a little extra money the last few months I have bought paper copies of their books to read.

One day in the middle of break. Maria Enela(that was her name, was or that’s what I rememember, and will stick with Enela) invited me into the hencoop with the. There were no hens or remains of hens. I suspected it was one of the nuns projects thay hadn’t taken root .. an abandoned building, clean for some reqason, dark and silent. I went in with her . Then the steps came close and she asked me “What sare those steps?”

“What do you think ?”I replied, nothing gto worry..”

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said “you know very well. I’m being followed … They old me to ask you

The otherworldlyness of the book, is that ghosts.

Before is told in the voice of a small girl, we see here looking back on her puberty a right of passage as she became a woman. Her sisters and her play with simple white pebbles together in the book make fantasy countries in lines with the stones but then they disappear. Then trying to find out which Turtle was in the turtle shop they had one day the story moves at times into almost a ghost story as strange things happen around the young girl things she has trouble explain or understanding .The story is a fragmented story as thou from a child time is flipped in place and events run against each other in times. There is the mother but the father is the man in the dark is he there or has he gone or died.A book that shows how frightening growing up can be and we see things that maybe or ghost or just fragments of our imaginations as we try to make sense of this world.

The pebbles that I “collected” from the neighbours yard were small, white, and were used by them to decorate the window box adorning the front of their house.

Collecting them was an adventure because they were just beyond our reach and because they were “cultivated” pebbles, “pedigree” pebbles and not stones from the street, so nobody should see us when we got them.

I lived the image of stealing those pebbles we all did something similar as a kid didn’t we !

As I said this is what Mexican writing does so well the short punchy novella from Juan Rulfo with Pedro Paramo which also has a sense of otherness to it written before this novella and a work after by say Yuri Herrera’s signs preceding the end which has a ghostly feel to the text and came out after this book. I also saw a comparison with Guadalupe Nettel’s work  that also touches on times on growing up. There is a style to Boulosa writing that is gripping to the reader given the great translation from Peter Bush. The girl’s voice has a real feel of a young woman looking back and the way you miss as a child the mundane in life and also the way we look at others and events in those years.A tumbling collection of remembered thoughts. Have you read any of her books?

Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado

 

ASH WEDNESDAY

 

Ash Wednesday by Miguel-Anxo Murado

Spanish (Galician) fiction

Original title – Mércores of cinza

Translator – Carey Evans-Corrales

Source – Review Copy

It wouldn’t be Spanish lit month without have at least one books translated from either Galician or Basque. So it is the second book by Miguel-Anxo Murado to be translated into English from the small press Small station. Murado is a writer, screenwriter and Journalist. He has written four books so far. He is also a commentator on Spanish politics for the BBC world service, Guardian and BBC four. His earlier books Soundcheck was based on his experiences during the Balkan conflict and is also published by the Small station press.

Dying blossoms, still white and pink,slowly letting go of the twisted boughs, wafted away by the gentlest of breezes, and children looking on. what are they thinking? the blossoms fall, time moves on.

This image interrupted the suffering of professor I… the image on an ordinary postcard, a simple photograph.He held it i n his hand and looked at it with some effort. It tired his eyes. Actually all of him was tired. He turned over; Ueno Park, tokyo, from his old friend of his, a colleague at Kyoto University, a marine biologist.

A man decides to see the blossom after looking aat tis card at the start of the story.

This is a collection of very short stories most less than ten pages all sixteen only take 136 pages. THe stories range around the world. From the last story which sees Professor visiting Kyoto to watch the annual Cherry Blossom. But this also reminds him that he himself has little time due to ilness. Then we have a ship that is sinking and the description of one sailor as he escapes the burning boat trying to escape and in the water watches his fellow crew members drift away as the currents catch them as a helicopter tries to save others. Then we are in Hong Kong with a visit to get a suit made over night at Wang’s.We see the Chinese ladies that work so hard to make a handmade suit over night. A classic story of two boys falling for a girl both in a gang they try to get her rather like the classic Babel tale of two men and a woman red Calvary.

Master Wang would greet his customers at the entrance bowing his way to the room he used as an office. In that tiny space, under the ceiling that seemed on the brink of caving in , was Wang’s inner sanctum

Wang Kept a collection of hundreds of buisness cards under glass on a table. Over the course of several years passing travelers and buisnessmen from all around the world would have some shorts or a jacket made at Wang’s or maybe some trousers.Most were people unable to spend  much more than twenty-four hours in the city. That is why the would go to Wang’s: Wang’s one-night-ready shop. He never failed on his promise to deliver the work the following day.

I remember Michael Palin getting a suit made on around the world in 80 day in Hing Kong in a day like in this story.

I read the first collection from Murado and loved it but it was a couple of years ago when I had a bad patch blogging so I never got round to it so I am pleased to have finally got to him. This is a universal collection of its themes. we see  Loss, inner strength, love, facing death, celebrating life although dying how we all deal with the extremes of life. This is a collection that shows how small the world is really from China to Japan, to London(a story of two Galician children attending a wake). This as I always say is why we have small press those collections that would never get published otherwise Murado has won many writing  prizes in Spain but not one of the big ones.

Wolf Moon by Julio Llamazares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolf moon by Julio Llamazares

Spanish Fiction

Original title –  Luna de lobos

Translators – Simon Deerholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles

Source – review copy

Here I am with the second of three books from Spain from the recent Peter Owen World series. The second is a highly regarded novel by the Spanish writer Julio Llamazares, that originally came out in 1985 and was one of the first books to deal with the Spanish Maquis those rebels that carried on after Franco took over control of Spain after the civil war. LLamazares has written in a number of styles from film scripts, essays, short stories and Novels. His novels have been noted for the description and use of nature this one, in particular, remind me of a book from a few years ago that must have been influenced by this book.Out in the open also followed an escape into the backlands of Spain, in that case, a child in Wolf moon it follows four men on the run from Franco’s Guardia police.

 

 

We walk across the mountains for two long nights without stopping to rest, in search of the home we left a year ago.

We sleep by day, hidden in the undergrowth, and when night falls, when the shadows begin to stretch out across the sky, we start off again, hungry and tired.

Behind us, asleep in the depths of the moonlit valleys, we leave behind villages and hamlets, sheepfolds and farmhouses, barely discernible lights, faniting away in the night, on old river courses or under the desolate, weritcal shelter of the mountains

The harsh reality starts to set in on the four .

The book follows the lives of four Spanish Republican fighters on the run in the mountains. The four Angel, Ramiro, Juan and Gido escape to the valleys where they grew up and the mountains they now so well.Firstly they find an old mine to hide in, whilst trying to carry on the fight and survive the harsh conditions. They struggle to eat hide and avoid the family that is helping them as their homes are all so near . from getting caught. The action follows the four over a number of years..Angel is the one who ventures most often, his father helps them and says to use the mine after they are nearly caught they use a Cave in the mountains. They all venture to see family but are in danger every time they do so .This carries on until  1946, seven years after the civil war finished. Angel is the last in the mountains he chooses to return and is shocked to see the effect the civil war has had on people that have aged overnight h=in his eyes in the decades since he left to fight.

We wait atleast five minutes without moving a muscle, in complete silence, listening to the footsteps move away, first along the platform and then along the track, heading towards Ferreras.In the darknessof the office  ramiro still has his handgun trained on the station master, whoose face is now so pale it looks like a death-mask.He must have been on the verge of screaming in public.

Thewy have to rob sometimes to get by in the mountains.

The book follows the four through highs and lows and shows the tough times the Maquis faced after the war on the run and trying to survive. But also trying to keep in touch with family and stop them from being caught and involved in being caught. Then there is sheer tough nature of living high in the mountains, this is like one of those series you could almost see on the History Channel.Four men on the run, get by on scraps from family see” the men of Wolf Moon”. This is a book like Out in the open that has the surrounding at the heart of the books and the descriptions bring the world around the four men to life. A modern classic from Spain brought to us by Peter Owen only  32 years after it came out!!

 

The Irish sea by Carlos Maleno

Image result for carlos maleno the irish sea

 

The Irish sea by Carlos Maleno

Spanish Fiction

Original title – Mar de Irlanda

Translator – Eric Kurtzke

Source – Personal copy

Now on to a personal book for Spanish lit month one recent book from Dalkey Archive another of the novellas they seem to be publishing. Carlos Maleno was born in Almeria in Spain where he still lives there working as a broker and writing on the side. He has written two books so far this was his debut work and won the Premio Argaria for a narrative work when it came out. It is his first book to be translated into English and came out earlier this year.

WHy am I wearing on my face, at this moment, the mask of an aged Felipe Gonzalez? out of political commitment? No I, feel no political affinity with anyone, not anymore. Lets imagine that our politican or any other politician, has a dog , which he never takes for a walk. Absolutely never. What does it matter to the dog whether this politician belongs to the left or the right?

A very spanish story about an ex spanish prime minister

The book is a collection of stories the stories are all separate stories, but as you move through them you find certain things reoccurring from story to story thus creating echoes of earlier stories. The stories range from the first about Kafka’s influence and how we are trying to match his talent. Then a story about the mask that is an ageing face of a former Spanish Prime Minister. Then Natassja Kinski keeps cropping up in stories also girls with green eyes. A hitchhiking girl who has green eyes who goes across the universe, vacuum cleaner salesmen .Then the title story follows a writer as he starts reading Irish based Spanish novel Dublinesque, then reads Beckett and then ends up in Irland watching another writer being interviewed about his latest book. The there is the frequent mention of the PlanLux a sort Lit sci fi touch from waking up there to phone calls from there as well adding a clever touch to what is an engaging collection of stories from a fresh new voice.

Now Elena and Javier are walking along the cliff road that goes from the hotel to downtown stiges. The wind is cold and she’s shivering: Javier hugs her in a vain attempt at imparting some warnth to her. Frozen, they lok at the sea as they walk. the sky isgrowing dark, and the waves roaring against the rocks. She moves a few steps head of him, staring down faptly at the waves. He watches her. The sea in the background is definitely no longer the meditterranean; no, this is the irish sea. This sea feels like his own. And they aren’t in Stiges anymore, they’re in Smerwick Ba. Insteadof Port Stiges resort, they’re staying at the smethwickHarbour Hotel.

Jaivier ends up in ireland after first in the story reading Dublinesque.

This is one of the reasons you have to look at what Dalkey put out they tend to find those odd gems. This is a collection that is very surreal at the time. A writer trying and mention his Heros, we see mention of the likes of Beckett, Walser, Kafka, Borges (of course ) and Gombrowicz. I also wondered if Greene is a writer he liked with the mention of Vacuum cleaner salesmen in two of the stories the stories test the boundaries people waking up in another planet after their death.  human bones suddenly appearing, a writer reading Dublinesque then starring at the Irish sea and then in Ireland itself.

The hive by Camilo Jose Cela

Image result for the hive camilo jose cela

The hive

 

The Hive by Camilo Jose Cela

Spanish fiction

Original title –  La Colmena

Translator – J M Cohen in consultation with Arturo Bare

Source – Personal copy

A few years ago I reviewed another book by the Late Nobel-winning Spanish writer Camilo Jose Cela and had since then want to try him again so when I recently found this second-hand edition it struck me a perfect choice for Spanish lit month. When the book first came out due to a number of sexual or erotic scenes in the book it was banned in Spain due to the strict censors at the time and first published in Argentina.

Dona Rosa comes and goes between the cafe tables, bumping into the custmers with her enormus backside. Dona Rosa her cafe is the world, and everything else revolves around the cafe. Some people claim that Dona Rosa’s little eyes begin to sparkle when spring comes and the girls go short sleeves. I think this is sheer gossip; for nothing in the world would Dona rosa ever sacrifice a solid five-peseta piece, spring or no spring.

 I loved the image of Dona Rosa the heart of the cafe in he story .

The hive is the best description for this story it is like cutting into a beehive, except the beehive is the city of Madrid it is December 1943 and this captures a few days in the city and  a small corner of the city is told from a small cafe in the city its owner  Dona Rosa is the cafe owner nd the story flies out from the guest and into the nearby Brothel and men looking for women like Don Pablo, dodgy businessmen and the jobless this is the city a few years after the Spanish civil war, the wounds simmer under the surface here . This is a book that buzzes as we meet the 300 plus character that appears in the seven chapters of the book some appear in a line others slid through the book mainly Dona Rosa her cafe it the beating heart of this book a place for gossip, meeting, romance or even just to waste time.

The young man who is writing verse licks his pencil and stares at the ceiling.He is one of those poets who writes poems with “Ideas”. This afternoon he has his idea but not yet his rhymes. He has got a few down on paper. What he is looking form is something to rhyme with streem, which must neither seemnor team. He is turining and redeem and gleam round in his mind.

“I’m shut up in a stupid armour, in the shell of a common clod. The girl with the deep blue eyes.. But I want to be strong,more than strong

A poet crops up and I wonder if he is the young Cela putting himself in the story.

Sometimes a city is captured at the perfect moment in a book. Dublin by Joyce in Ulysses, Havana by Infante’s three trapped tigers, Istanbul by Pamuk. This seems to capture a post-war world of Madrid a city getting used to life under Franco. But also the darker side of life in a city the brothels, affairs and fighting. This is a book full of clever observation of human life and human nature the humdrum world in full technicolour as we shine a light over the dark streets. Unlike Joyce and the others there is no main figure in the book no this is a collection of voices situations most just like you’ve walked past them a mere snippet leaving you at times to fill in the gaps of the  stories or what happened next this could have lead to a lot of follow-on stories about the characters here. Note not my cover mine is a sceptre edition, but I liked this old ace cover

Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas

Nona's Room

Nona’s room by Cristina Fernandez Cubas

Spanish fiction

Original title – de La Habitación de Nona

Translators – Kathryn Phillips-Miles and Simon Deefholts

Source – review copy

My first book for Spanish lit month is the first of the three from the second |Peter Owen World series were they are every year publishing three books from a certain country the first in the series was Slovenia this second series is three books from Spain. The first book is from Cristina Fernandez Cubas she has bee writing since the 1980’s this is her first book to be translated into English, she has written ten books, including one using a male pseudonym, this collection won National Narrative and critics prize when it came out.

My sister is special. That’s what my mother told me at the time she was born in the bright and sunny room in that hospital.She also said, “Special is a lovely word.Never forget that “. I’ve never forgetten, oif course , but it’s more than likely that the scene I’ve described didn’t happen in the hospital but much later in some room and that Nona wasn’t a newborn or even a baby but rather aa little girl of three or four years old .

Nona isn’t what we think this is the start but as the story unflds it takes more turns.

Cubas is well known for putting her female characters in very unsettling situations or out of their comfort zone. The first story is told by an older sister about her young sister Nona of the title of the book. As the story unfolds as told by a child you sense something is very wrong with her younger sister almost unnatural in a way. The next story follows a young woman who is about to meet a friend in a cafe feels sorry for an older woman Ro as she finds out that is sat by herself in the cafe looking lost and lonely.The young woman called Alicia is in need of a place to stay and this older woman offer hers a place in her flat, encourages her to see the flat before her friend arrives. She does but does she return and is all as it seems is this older lady whom she seems. Then a story revolving around a picture that is a girl looking for something under a bed another strange figure leads a writer to she the picture in person. There are three other stories.

Alica thought Ro was charming , a charming old lady.

“I’m on the fifth floor.”

Alicia imagined the fifth floor was like. There would be an enormus flat full of keepsakes. It would be a flat typical of the Ensanche district. There would be the dining room and a glazed veranda at one end and the master bedroom at the other .There would be a long corridor, which Ro would struggle up and down a thousand times a day. Ro, she said to herfself .Now she thought about it , her last chance was actually RO

Ok I’ll come in for a bit, just for a bit

Alicia goes to see a flat but is that All ?

This is a collection of  slightly creepy stories , I was reminded of Roald Dahl  short stories, at times she is almost a female version of his tales of unexpected where everything isn’t what it seems on the surface the perfect example is the second story talking to old ladies that until the last third seems a simple story of an older lady offering a younger a place to stay but no there is a classic twist in the tail, which is what Dahl did so well in his tales of the unexpected stories .I’m surprised it has taken so long for her to be translated into English

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