#BlogTour Small Deaths by Rijula Das

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Small Deaths by Rijula Das. – Winner of the 2021 Tata Literature Live! First Book Award – Fiction Longlisted for The JCB Prize for Literature 2021.

About the Author

Rijula Das received her PhD in Creative Writing/prose-fiction in 2017 from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where she taught writing for two years. She is a recipient of the 2019 Michael King Writers Centre Residency in Auckland and the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story Notes From A Passing. Her short story, The Grave of The Heart Eater, was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2019. Her short fiction and translations have appeared in Newsroom, New Zealand and The Hindu. She lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand. Follow @RijulaDas on Twitter

About the book

In the red-light district of Shonagachhi, Lalee dreams of trading a life of penury and violence for one of relative luxury as a better-paid ‘escort’. Her long-standing client, Trilokeshwar ‘Tilu’ Shau is an erotic novelist hopelessly in love with her.

When a young girl who lives next door to Lalee gets brutally murdered, a spiral of deceit and crime begins to disturb the fragile stability of this underworld’s existence. One day, without notice, Lalee’s employer and landlady, the formidable Shefali Madam, decrees that she must now service wealthier clients at plush venues outside the familiar walls of the brothel. But the new job is fraught with unknown hazards and drives Lalee into a nefarious web of prostitution, pimps, sex rings, cults and unimaginable secrets that endanger her life and that of numerous women like her. 

As the local Sex Workers’ Collective’s protests against government and police inaction and calls for justice for the deceased girl gain fervour, Tilu Shau must embark on a life-altering misadventure to ensure Lalee does not meet a similarly savage fate.

Set in Calcutta’s most fabled neighbourhood, Small Deaths is a literary noir as absorbing as it is heart-wrenching, holding within it an unforgettable story of our society’s outcasts and marking the arrival of a riveting new writer.

Review

This is very much a read between the lines story, despite the fact the brutal reality of these scenarios couldn’t be presented in a more precise and clear way. With that in mind, and the fate of the vulnerable, the disposable and those who have no one to miss them when they disappear without a trace – the title of small deaths takes on an entirely different meaning.

In the midst of the degradation, the abuse and the lack of control over her life Lalee accepts help from one of few who have shown her kindness. Is it kindness though, when Tilu is just another customer? Sometimes you just have to grasp at straws, especially when you are in the midst of a whirlpool of expendability.

When you take a close look at the frame of the premise you can take it and place it in multiple countries – the structure is always the same. You take the desperate, the innocent, the vulnerable and those who are easy victims and create a profitable base for criminals and deviants. In Shonagachhi you see the way these specific areas become their own cosmos – a community within the wider societal community.

It’s literary fiction, the retracing of what led to a crime, and the attempt to change just one small iota – one life – of the many held captive by the depravity of the criminals and collaborators of Calcutta and its red-light district. It’s a bleak reality check and an excellent read. Kudos for the last chapter.

Buy Small Deaths at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Amazon Crossing; pub date 13th September | Paperback: £8.99 UK | €9.99 EU. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Homecoming by Anna Enquist

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Homecoming by Anna Enquist, translated by Eileen Stevens.

About the Author

Anna Enquist studied piano at the academy of music in The Hague and psychology at Leiden University. She is the author of the novels The Masterpiece; The Secret, winner of the 1997 Dutch Book of the Year awarded by the public; The Ice Carriers; Counterpoint; Quartet; and the international bestseller The Homecoming, which received the Prix du Livre Corderie Royale-Hermione for its French translation. 

Anna is also the author of A Leap, a collection of dramatic monologues, as well as numerous poetry collections, including Soldiers’ Songs, for which she was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize; A New Goodbye; and Hunting Scenes, winner of the Lucy B. and C.W. van der Hoogt Prize.

About the Translator – Eileen Stevens

Eileen Stevens earned her MA in linguistics with a specialization in translation from the University of Amsterdam. Her many Dutch-to-English translation credits include Connie Palmen’s Your Story, My Story; Karin Schacknat’s In and Out of Fashion; Vera Mertens’s The Concentration Camp; and Ineke van Doorn’s Singing from the Inside Out. She has also translated numerous essays on classical music and the arts. A New Jersey native, Eileen spent twenty-five years working as a professional violinist in a Dutch orchestra and has lived in Amsterdam since 1990.

About the book

After twelve years of marriage to English explorer James Cook, Elizabeth has yet to spend an entire year with her husband. In their house by the Thames, she moves to the rhythms of her life as a society wife, but there is so much more to her than meets the eye. She has the strength to manage the house and garden, raise their children, and face unbearable sorrow alone.

As she prepares for another homecoming, Elizabeth looks forward to James’s triumphant return and the work she will undertake reading and editing his voluminous journals. But will the private life she’s been leading in his absence distract her from her role in aid of her husband’s grand ambitions? Can James find the compassion to support her as their family faces unimaginable loss, or must she endure life alone as he sails off toward another adventure?

An intimate and sharply observed novel, The Homecoming is as revelatory as James Cook’s exploration of distant frontiers and as richly rewarding as Elizabeth’s love for her family. With courage and strength, through recollection and imagination, author Anna Enquist brilliantly narrates Elizabeth’s compelling record of her life, painting a psychological portrait of an independent woman ahead of her time.

Review

It’s always fascinating to read about the women behind important historical figures. The people who remain anonymous, invisible and because of that they disappear into the folds of history books and archives. The importance of their roles is underrated and often never told. Putting that into perspective, who doesn’t know about James Cook, and who in turn knows anything about his wife Elizabeth.

We meet Elizabeth as she is preparing for her husband to return to her once again. Not unlike modern military wives, she is the glue that holds the family and home together, awaiting the man who is little more than a distant love. They have spent little time together for the duration of their marriage – his endeavours, tasks and adventures always come first.

She carries the weight of grief alone, the unusual existence of being the wife of an early version of a celebrity. It’s no wonder that the two of them have little common ground when he finally and reluctantly returns home. The feet they itcheth to be waterborne once more.

The subtle combination of historical fact, imagined dialogue, actual excerpts of letters and journals with a smidgen of faction thrown in to compliment the tale. It’s also a lovely homage to the woman behind the man.

I always appreciate a good translation, which when done well leaves no lasting impression of having been translated, and captures the true essence, the nuances and voice of the author. Kudos to Stevens for that, and to Enquist for the fascinating read.

Buy The Homecoming at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher Amazon Crossing, pub date 1st April 2022 | Paperback: £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Karitas Untitled by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Karitas Untitled by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, translated by Philip Roughton. This is the first book in the Translated Fiction BlogTour, the second book The Homecoming by Anna Enquist is on tour in April – both books are published by Amazon Crossing.

About the Author

Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir is one of Iceland’s most acclaimed writers and the internationally bestselling author of numerous noels, including Karitas Untitled, a Nordic Council Literature Prize nominee; Street of the Mothers; Chaos on Canvas; and Seagull’s Laughter, which was adapted for the stage and also into an award-winning film.

She received her degree in 1991 from the University of iceland and has also worked as a techer and a journalist. Among Kristín Marja’s many honours are the Knight’s Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon for her achievements in writing and her contributions to Icelandic literature, the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize, and the Fjöruverðlaun Women’s Literature Prize. Kristín Marja lives in Reykjavik. 

About the Translator

Philip Roughton is an award-winning translator of many of Iceland’s best-known authors including Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Þórarinn Eldjárn, Bergsveinn Birgisson, and Steinunn Sigurðardóttir.

About the book

Growing up on a farm in early twentieth-century rural Iceland, Karitas Ólafsdóttir, one of six siblings, yearns for a new life. As an artist, Karitas has a powerful calling and is determined to never let go of her true unconventional self. But she is powerless against the fateful turns of real life and all its expectations of women. Pulled back time and again by design and by chance to the Icelandic countryside―as dutiful daughter, loving mother, and fisherman’s wife―she struggles to thrive, to be what she was meant to be.

Spanning decades and set against a breathtaking historical canvas, Karitas Untitled, an award-winning classic of Icelandic literature, is a complex and immersive portrait of an artist’s conflict with love, family, nature, and a country unaccustomed to an untraditional woman―but most of all, with herself and the creative instincts she has no choice but to follow.

Review

It’s interesting how the young Karitas can recognise certain aspects of her older siblings needing to break free from convention and live life on her own terms, but she does so as a child and perhaps doesn’t comprehend when she goes through the same process. In the one it is perceived as flighty, egotistical and perhaps a possible betrayal of the struggling family, in the other as an existential crisis.

Does Karitas ever acknowledge that fact or does her sister remain the one that attempted or perhaps just the sister who was wilful. In her own journey she finds it difficult and even impossible to live up to expectations and adhere to conventions, and yet she does. Simultaneously the soul of the artist pushes to break free of said constraints. The question is whether the two halves of Karitas can coexist or must one half be sacrificed on the altar of emotional bonds or left to shrivel without the necessary air to breathe?

It’s beautifully written, and at this point kudos to the translator who manages to capture the beating heart of this story. The stunning, compelling and often deadly surroundings. The isolation of the area, and the way the souls of its people are forever anchored to the land. The author describes with compelling accuracy the woman torn in many directions, and the earth she belongs to, the people she loves who ask so much of her. What does she gain in return – not enough? Can it ever be enough? A riveting piece of literature.

Buy Karitas Untitled at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Amazon Crossing; pub date 1 Mar. 2022 – Paperback £8.99. Buy at Amazon com.