Category: Women Page 3 of 33

Cora Sandel: Alberte og Jakob (Alberta and Jacob)

The latest addition to my website is Cora Sandel‘s Alberte og Jakob (Alberta and Jacob). This is a semi-autobiographical novel, the first in a trilogy, set in a small town, based on Tromsø. Alberta is a young woman who has left school and now has nothing to look forward to but marriage and a family. She clashes with her parents, who have their own problems, has only one friend, an outspoken, carefree young woman, and generally does not fit in or know where she is going. She is only close to her younger brother, Jacob, but he manages to escape, going to sea, and she is left alone. Everything was dead, joyless, sickening, without hope.

Fiona Snyckers: Lacuna

The latest addition to my website is Fiona SnyckersLacuna. J M Coetzee‘s Booker Prize-winning novel Disgrace was controversial, particularly for the scene where Lucy Lurie is raped by three black men. The book was criticised for being racist, showing black men as violent, but also for sexism as Lucy is seen as passive, refusing to divulge the names of her assailants and keeping the resultant child. This book is a feminist response to Coetzee and his novel. It is told by Lucy, who is shown as a real person and a former (very junior) colleague of Coetzee when he was a university professor. It is a complex novel, discussing the issues of victim shaming, the right to appropriate the stories of others, including those still living, the link between literature and real life, the twists and turns of the legal system and how South Africa is and is not adapting to the post-apartheid era. It also tells a very good story and offers an effective challenge to Coetzee’s novel. Snyckers does an excellent job in challenging Coetzee and his point of view.

Karen Duve: Regenroman (Rain)

The latest addition to my website is Karen Duve‘s Regenroman (Rain). Leon Ulbricht is an unsuccessful writer when his friend Harry Klaamt gets him the job of writing a biography of Harry’s boss, Benno Pfitzner, a former boxer and current pimp and thug. With the advance, Leon, with his docile but attractive wife Martina, buys a rundown house by a marsh in a small village in the former East Germany. It rains all the time, the house is in very poor condition and, because of the water, getting worse, there is a plague of slugs and Leon has to spend his time doing repairs, though he injures himself doing so. The neighbouring sisters, one a predatory lesbian, the other a predatory man-chaser, do help a bit. However Benno wants his book and he wants it now and he is not used to not getting what he wants and becomes increasingly menacing. It all ends very badly for all concerned but it is still raining.

Almudena Grandes: El corazón helado (The Frozen Heart)

The latest addition to my website is Almudena GrandesEl corazón helado (The Frozen Heart). This is a long and complicated novel set mainly in the present but very much looking back to the Spanish Civil War. We follow the stories of two related families, one primarily Francoist and one primarily Republican, and their respective fates during and following the Civil War. The Republican one behaved more or less honourably, the Francoist one did not, cheating the other out of its property. We see much of this through the eyes of Álvaro, son of the Francoist Julio, though he himself is left-wing who, after his father’s death meets one of his father’s bankers and starts an adulterous affair with her. At the same time, he gradually uncovers some of his father’s dirty deeds and what happened to his father’s mother who did not die of tuberculosis, as his father had always claimed. What he uncovers and his affair will disrupt the family. Grandes, who sadly died a couple of weeks ago (27 November, 2o21), superbly exposes some of the non-military horrors of the Civil War and its aftermath.

Jana Bodnárová: Náhrdelník/Obojok (Necklace/Choker)

The latest addition to my website is Jana Bodnárová‘s Náhrdelník/Obojok (Necklace/Choker). This novel tells the stories of two Slovak women – Sara and Iboja – who meet in their hometown after Slovak independence in the late twentieth century. Their stories and the stories of their families are the stories of Slovakia as we follow them and their families from the 1930s to the post-independence era. Both came from well-to-do families but suffered from the Holocaust, the war, exile (Sara is in Germany, Iboja’s mother and father went to France while she stayed behind with her grandparents). Both families suffered bitterly under communism with Sara’s father, a painter whose paintings were not approved, going to an early grave and Iboja’s grandfather being arrested for being a bourgeois parasite. Bodnárová shows how much the area has lost, something that can never be regained, while the two women – aged fifty-five and seventy respectively – can only look back with sadness.

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.

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