Category: Women Page 1 of 31

Najwa Bin Shatwan: الطليانوج حياة خاصة (Catalogue of a Private Life)

The latest addition to my website is Najwa Bin Shatwan‘s (Catalogue of a Private Life). This is a collection of eight stories from Libya. Some are serious, but most are satirical, absurd and/or surrealistic, telling of the grim situation in Libya and the repression of the people, particularly the women. We have a cow that is a giant missile, a village which can travel round the world, a fuel queue from Tripoli to Tunis, and a general with a lot of weapons but no army but also girls who are never allowed to leave their home and a woman who is told she should be forbidden from entering all seven levels of heaven because she was not wearing a hijab. Bin Shatwan tells her stories very well and they are well worth reading.

Manon Steffan Ros: Llyfr Glas Nebo (Blue Book of Nebo)

The latest addition to my website is Manon Steffan Ros‘s Llyfr Glas Nebo (Blue Book of Nebo). This is a Welsh post-apocalyptic novel, translated from the Welsh. Following what looks like a nuclear war and the failure of a local nuclear power station, thirty-six years old Rowenna and her fourteen year old son, Dylan, living in a remote Welsh village, seem to be the only survivors, everyone else having died or moved away. The pair manage to survive, trapping animals and growing their own crops and we follow them, how they change from the pre-apocalypse period and become resourceful and resilient, but also learning, both from books they take from abandoned houses and from their struggle. But is there anyone out there?

Juli Zeh: Neujahr (New Year)

The latest addition to my website is Juli Zeh‘s Neujahr (New Year). Henning is on holiday in Lanzarote with his wife, Theresa, and young children. On New Year’s Day 2018 he decides to go cycling on his own up the steep slope to Mount Atalaya. During his ride he thinks of his life, which is not going well, particularly because of frequent unexplained panic attacks. He and Theresa both work half-time to share child-minding duties but that is not going well, either. As he reaches the summit he is exhausted and dehydrated and is rescued by a fellow German but collapses and recalls in detail a traumatic event from his childhood which may or may not explain his panic attacks. As always Zeh gives us an excellent psychological story.

Sigrid Undset: Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken 2 (The Snake Pit; later: Olav Audunssøn. 2. Providence)

The latest addition to my website is Sigrid Undset‘s Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken 2 (The Snake Pit; later: Olav Audunssøn. 2. Providence). This is the second in her Olav Audunssøn tetralogy, following on from Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken (The Axe); later: (OlavAudunssøn. 1. Vows). In this book Olav and Ingunn finally get together and marry but there is a shadow hanging over them, Olav’s guilt at murdering Teit, who fathered Ingunn’s child, Eirik, and Ingunn’s guilt at her relationship with Teit, even though Olav seemed to have disappeared. Olav will eventually adopt Eirik and recognise him as well but that only partially solves the problem, with the entire book devoted to the shadow that hangs over the couple because of their respective sins, which affects not only their own relationship but their relationship with others, including but not limited to Eirik. Undset tells the story superbly and shows the damage that the feeling of sin and guilt can cause.

Adrienne Yabouza: Co-épouses et co-veuves, (Co-wives, Co-widows)

The latest addition to my website is Adrienne Yabouza‘s Co-épouses et co-veuves, (Co-wives, Co-widows), the first adult novel from the Central African Republic to be published in English. It tells the story of Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou, the two wives of successful house-builder Lidou. Lidou has done well and everything is going well, except for his performance in bed. He tries a mixture of both Cialis and local concoction which initially works but then kills him. His sister and his cousin are in cahoots to deprive the co-widows of their rights and, with the help of a bit of bribery, they do so, driving the two women and their children back to their parents. However, the women are not going to take it lying down and call on other women to help them. It is a very enjoyable story, with a background of the not entirely honest Central African Republic elections, showing how the patriarchy operates in that country.

Susan Daitch: Siege of Comedians

The latest addition to my website is Susan Daitch‘s Siege of Comedians. This is a superb and highly complex novel with three main characters and lots of secondary ones. We follow Iridia, a forensic sculptor for the Brooklyn Missing Persons Bureau, who uncovers a people trafficking plot but has to flee to Vienna as the traffickers are after herl. We then follow Martin Shusterman who goes to Buenos Aires but his girlfriend is disappeared so he becomes an accent expert. However he is obsessed with a Buenos Aires neighbour , Karl Sauer, a Nazi film-maker, and he also heads to Vienna to track him down. The building in Vienna where Sauer worked had been a brothel in 17th century Vienna and we follow the woman who ran the brothel but also three trafficked women who ended up in her brothel. Daitch is clearly attacking the horrific treatment of women through the ages but also tells a superb and complex story with lots of side issues, making this a very complex novel but one well worth reading.

Maria Judite de Carvalho: Os Armários Vazios (Empty Wardrobes)

The latest addition to my website is Maria Judite de Carvalho‘s Os Armários Vazios (Empty Wardrobes). The novel tells the story of Dora Rosário, who marries Duarte young and has a daughter . Duarte, however, is totally devoid of ambition, despite being pushed by a forceful mother, and has a low-paying job and will not allow his wife to work. When he dies while still young, she is left destitute. After a long while, she finds a job managing an antique shop and is able to help her daughter, who wants to be an air hostess. However, she still remains devoted to the memory of Duarte and makes no effort with her appearance. Then, one day, her mother-in-law tells her a secret and she changes, spending time and money on her appearance and seems to capture a man from the narrator. But things do not always work out well. Maria Judite de Carvalho gives an excellent portrait of a woman who is, for all too long, merely seen as a piece of furniture, an empty wardrobe.

Sarah Hall: Burntcoat

The latest addition to my website is Sarah Hall‘s Burntcoat. Our heroine is Edith Harknesss. We follow her life from when she was ten and her mother, a successful novelist, had an aneurysm but survived though much changed. Edith decides to become an artist, focussing on monumental works using shou sugi ban, a Japanese charred timber technique and has considerable success. However a pandemic strikes – seemingly worse than covid just as she is starting the love affair of her life with a Turkish chef and the pair hide out in her huge converted warehouse called Burntcoat. The pandemic leaves Edith with the equivalent of long covid, though this form seems it be generally fatal, as she works on her final monumental work. It is another superb work from Sarah Hall and confirms her as one of Britain’s leading novelists.

Hanne Ørstavik: Presten (The Pastor)

The latest addition to my website is Hanne Ørstavik‘s Presten (The Pastor). The eponymous pastor is Liv. She had worked in southern Germany where she had befriended Kristiane but when Kristiane killed herself, she had applied for and got a job in the far North of Norway. However, things do not go well, not least because she had trouble fitting in and clearly does not have the right temperament to be a pastor, finding it difficult to comfort people in distress. She has also been working on a doctoral thesis on a Sami rebellion in 1852, which took place near where she is now working, and realises that the connection between the two cultures is Christianity – the Sami seemed to have adopted a more fervent Christianity at the time – while language, ultimately the language of the Bible, not at that time available in Sami, is also important. However the struggles of Liv and other women characters are the key to this book.

Petra Hůlová: Stručné dějiny Hnutí (The Movement)

The latest addition to my website is Petra Hůlová‘s Stručné dějiny Hnutí (The Movement). This is a feminist dystopian novel. In this New World, men are sent to a institute – in some cases voluntarily but often at the instigation of their spouses or even simply snatched from the streets, where they are retrained – often fairly harshly – to think of women as people and not as bodies. The training includes masturbating to pictures of ugly older woman and having sex with them. The story is told by Věra, a guard at one of the institutes who seems a lot of her time looking at and handling penises. Once she gets away from the city on a tour, she finds it is women rather than men who are of the most resistant. The book seemed as much a manifesto against men’s view of women as a novel but Hůlová makes her point about the objectification of women and excess pornography.

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