Four Women Writers

I was afraid that too many of my reading challenge choices were by male authors, so I made a point of introducing a female quota.  So here are four very different women authors, showing the variety and richness of what is sometimes disparaged as ‘women’s literature’. As it happens, I personally know three out of the four women writers whose books I feature below.  However, this has not influenced my reviews of their books – although I have refrained from giving stars on this occasion.  Sadly, the first two are only available in the original (Romanian and French, respectively).

Claudia Golea Sumiya:  În numele câinelui (In the name of the dog)

Not really a novel, more of a straightforward account of the true but surprising story of a man called Takeshi Koizumi, currently facing the death penalty in a high-security prison in Tokyo.  Back in 2008, the 46 year old unemployed man admitted his involvement in fatally stabbing a former vice welfare minister and his wife, and also wounding the wife of another former health and welfare minister in a separate incident. The reason for his crime?  Punishing the people who had ordered the detention and extermination of his pet dog, his childhood friend, in a local dog pound.  In Japan, these dog pounds are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Welfare.  An animal lover herself, the author began corresponding with Koizumi in prison and  this book combines his letters with her own impressions of the man and her growing understanding of (if not condoning) his actions.  There are probably good (legal) reasons why the story could not have been written in any other way, but I cannot help feeling that it would have been so much more powerful as fiction.

Hélèna Villovitch: Petites soups froides (Little Cold Soups)

Artist, filmmaker and writer, Villovitch experiments with form, style and content in this collection of short stories.  The title story is written as vignettes in the shape of the ‘little cold soups’ which serve as nibbles at cocktail parties nowadays, a commentary on the inability to connect to others and the separate conversations going on in people’s heads.  Other stories capture celebrity culture and obsession with appearance, cross-cultural misunderstandings and little cruelties or envies between friends.  The author has a dry humour and unsentimental style which really suits the everyday subject matter. Although the stories were rather uneven overall, I admire this author for being brave and trying out new ideas.  Sometimes it feels like there is too little ‘radical newness’ in literature nowadays.

Carmen Bugan: Burying the Typewriter

This is a poignant memoir of a family very nearly torn apart by the secret police of the Communist regime in Romania.  The first part describes the near-idyllic childhood in the countryside, surrounded by friends and grandparents.  The author is a poet, and this is obvious from the rich visual imagery and melodic phrases to describe the passing of the seasons, village life and its traditions.  Then her father buys a ‘secret’ typewriter (i.e. one that has not been recorded by the secret police and traced to its owner) and starts writing and distributing pamphlets with the rather modest basic requests: “We ask for human rights. We ask for freedom of opinion. We ask for hot water and electricity. We ask for freedom to assemble.”  The safe, happy childhood is shattered as the author’s father is imprisoned, her mother is forced to divorce him, and they become subjected to constant surveillance and harassment.  The horrors of the regime are not fully revealed, as it is all presented through the eyes of a child: far more shocking to her is the sudden loss of friends or having neighbours inform against them.  A book that moved me not just for its shared cultural language and memories, but because it brings compassion, warmth and understanding to an area and a time which is usually so bleak and unforgiving; its ghosts and echoes are still haunting Romania today. What remains after reading this book is the clear picture of the luminous, redeeming power of love, of family and of literature.

Nicky Wells: Sophie’s Run

Just what the doctor ordered, when I was running hot and cold during the night and couldn’t sleep.  An engaging heroine who never quite falls into the ditziness which can sometimes plague chick lit, mostly adorable men (despite the odd rat or two) and a story line filled with surprises and humour.  In fact, my main point of contention with the story is just how caring and supportive the men seem to be – could this qualify as fantasy?  The story opens two years after the end of ‘Sophie’s Turn’ and the characters have matured a little.  The story too has become a little deeper and darker, with topics such as depression, loneliness and forgiveness all being addressed.  I also like the travelling theme which seems to feature heavily in the Sophie novels: in this book we can undertake vicarious trips to Berlin, Scotland and a remote German island in the North Sea, as well as spend a day sightseeing in London.  Escapist literature, yes, but what is wrong with that?


19 thoughts on “Four Women Writers”

  1. Marina Sofia – All of these books sound really well worth reading. I might be able to manage the French one but the Romanian one? Sad to say, no. I hope it gets translated one day. In the meantime, I admire your decision to have a look at the kinds of authors you read. I think it broadens us as readers to do that.

    1. Don’t worry, I don’t expect anyone to learn Romanian! However, if you do want to get a feel for life in Romania in the 1970-80s (with its good and bad sides), then Bugan’s memoir is a great introduction.

  2. Wow! Marina, I am so honoured to be part of your fabulous selection today. I’ll be taking a closer look at my fellow featured authors, but wanted to say thank you for your thoughts on my second novel. Are the men too kind? I do wonder; maybe it is borderline fantasy and certainly a touch on the escapist side but hey ho, life’s so short and can be so unkind, I want to offer a little hope. One can dream! Thrilled that you enjoyed the book and thanks again for taking the time to offer your thoughts and feature them on your blog!! 🙂

      1. Laughter is the best medicine, LOL. Sorry to hear you were poorly but glad you’re feeling better. And last I heard, you had the most gorgeous, loving man in your life, right…? XX

  3. Marina, love these choices and so interesting. Thanks for bringing them to my attention, although I know Nicky Wells from our common link re music, so I know all about Dan and Sophie. I expect she is thrilled to be included. Also, thanks so much for visiting my blog from time to time, wonderful that you do and I am really appreciative. I shall be back too. Have a great weekend and I look forward to reading more soon.

    1. Do you know- I am really glad I have friends writing in such different genres, because otherwise there would be a serious risk of becoming too one-sided! And I am nearly always pleasantly surprised when I try something new. What does that say about the need to step outside our comfort zone and that you always have something to learn from any kind of genre?

  4. I think… I am grateful for this blog. And many other blogs like it. There are a great many books in this world, and one sometimes has to choose the one’s to read. I may not read every book that is suggested to me. There are far too many. I will most likely not read these four books(although Burying the Typewriter has most definitely caught me eye.) In either case, it is blogs like these that provide a greater selection to choose from. For, even if I can not read every book in the world, I am always open to new suggestions. From the ever growing pool of literature, comes the best of books to read. Thank you very much for this. I appreciate all the work that you do.

  5. Thank you, that is so gracious and eloquent. Exactly how I feel about book bloggers. They add and add and add to my list, but even if I never get around to reading all of them, at least I have my eyes opened to the fact that there is a wider world out there.

  6. So agree with your comments above, for people interested in the fashion world, they read magazines, browse shop windows, buy now and then (or even compulsively) it could be said that is what we are also doing, keeping up with a variety of reading through blogs – which doesn’t mean we need to always buy or even read, but hearing about new works and thoughts on others we may have already read are such a pleasure for those of us passionate about language and reading and writing. And then there’s the poetry! Bonne Continuation Marina!

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