Placeholder, Admin and Other Boring Stuff

I’m on another business trip and therefore falling behind on my writing and reviewing, so be warned… This is going to be the world’s most boring blog post, mostly a reminder to self what I have read and reviewed, what still needs reviewing… yes, a To Do list!

I started off the week with a review of Child 44 – the book, rather than the film. The book was written 7 years or so ago, but I was wary of reading it because descriptions of totalitarian regimes disturb me in a way that any number of dark crime fiction thrillers cannot. And this one combines Stalinist Soviet Union with a serial killer and graphic scenes of torture? Oh, no, thank you, I thought. Yet, with the film coming out now (haven’t seen it yet, but it looks compelling) and after meeting Tom Rob Smith in Lyon, I plunged right in. It’s a wild ride: I sat up till the early hours of the morning to finish it and that doesn’t happen very often. Yes, there are minor niggles about how faithful the portrayal of fear and belief in a an oppressive state system really is, but suspend your disbelief and enjoy the thrill!

I’m also rather proud of my introduction to Latin American crime fiction. It’s not that easy to find translations into English, but I did my best with what I had. Some I’ve read, some I’ve only read about and researched – but you bet I now want to read them all!

Then there are all those books weighing on my conscience:

1) epic and encyclopedic The Great War by Aleksandar Gatalica needs to be reviewed by the end of this month, preferably this week.

2) Natsume Soseki’s Light and Dark has been on my bedside table since January and I’m still not nearing the end. It is so much like Henry James’s later works and I’m struggling with all the tiny details, that I wonder if I would be able to read James again nowadays.

3) Ben Byrne’s Fire Flowers introduced me to post-war Japan – and I want to write something about Japan’s experience of WW2 and how it’s been portrayed in both Japanese literature and abroad. I wrote something similar in my B.A. thesis, but that was a loooong while ago.

4) Three new to me authors this month: Virginie Despentes, Yasmina Khadra and Karin Alvtegen. I enjoyed their books (well, ‘enjoy’ is perhaps the wrong word to use, as each of their novels is harrowing in its own way), but I wasn’t completely bowled over. Yet. I do want to read more of them before I make up my mind, though.

5) I haven’t progressed much with Tale of Genji – well, it’s a very THICK book and not easy to take with you on a trip…

6) I keep trying to resist the siren song of new releases, but I really, really want to read Sarah Hilary’s No Other Darkness. So that is next on my TBR list, along with Philippe Besson, recommended by none other than Emma from Book Around the Corner.

Next week there’s no business trip coming up, the children go back to school and hopefully there’ll be time for reviewing as well as that all-important, now-critical writing!

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12 thoughts on “Placeholder, Admin and Other Boring Stuff”

  1. Karin Alvtegen is a name that’s been mentioned to me a couple of times previously, in complimentary terms, so one to look out for, I think. I enjoyed Child 44 – no idea what the film will be like – although I heard the other two in the series (The Secret Speech and Agent 6) weren’t as strong as the first.

    1. Yes, I’m not sure I’ll go straight on to read the other two in the series, but I do want to see the film – which apparently hasn’t done so well at the box office, because it’s too intellectual and emotional (real emotion rather than faux tear-jerker), not just straightforward action.

  2. I’m glad you found Child 44 compelling, Marina Sofia. I’ve had books like that too, where I avoided them at first for certain reasons, but then was glad I’d read them. Also good to hear that you liked your introduction to Alvtegen’s work. I think she writes a good psychological thriller. And I know all about to-do lists…

    1. Thanks for recommending the Alvtegen – it was a creepy read, but I kept analysing it as a writer rather than just a reader, so I held it to higher standards than I might otherwise have done…

      1. Ah – there we have it! It’s Margot who’d mentioned the name before (that was annoying me!) I love creepy – I’ll check her out.

  3. I liked your Latin American crime fiction post very much, and it reminds me that I have yet to read Pineiro. Bitter Lemon Press publishes her as well as Mallo, and I wonder if they have other South American authors in the pipeline. It’s hard to find translations here as well, but the ones I do find are really great, a la The Sound of Things Falling.

    Catch up with you soon.

    1. Some readers object to the very graphic descriptions of sex and violence in Latin American fiction, but it is such a pervasive part of their society… Very different to Anglo-Saxon culture, unsettling at times, but a good ‘stretch’ read.

  4. I enjoyed your Tale of Genji post, the one comparing the styles of different translations. The novel is a very long read though – it sounds like one to savour, not to be rushed. Soseki’s been on my ‘must try one day’ list for a while, but I’ve been looking at ‘The Gate’ and ‘I am a Cat’.

    1. Those Soseki novels are much, much better bets – or Botchan or Kokoro or Grass on the Wayside… or pretty much anything except this last (unfinished) book of his…

  5. I totally know what you mean about Soseki. I have started I am a cat in January (for Junuary in Japan) and it’s still on my pile. I’ll get back to it soon. It’s full of humorous details and I remember what I read. It’s a book like a light rain, it takes time but it’s very well absorbed.

    Which Despentes did you read? I’m going to write about Teen Spirit soon and I loved Apocalypse Baby.
    I have a Khadra on the To Be Reviewed pile too.

  6. There must be something about Child 44. I have it on my IPAD ( book) a d an Audible version. I hesitate as you did. Why? Probably the thought of entering the Stalin era depresses me even before I open the book. Gulag Archipel (Solzhenitsyn) has been collecting dust on my shelf for years. Must confess I have not read the post on Latin American CF…but will do today! Sounds very interesting.
    I love the idea of a ‘ to do list’. I have been reading but letting my choices be guided by my whims. I should get organized. I was so focused when I had the goal of reading all of Zola’s 20 book. I have to find that focus again. Thanks for a great and inspiring post!

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