#Blogtour Lessons by Ian McEwan

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Lessons by Ian McEwan.

About the Author

Ian McEwan is the critically acclaimed author of seventeen novels and two short story collections. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child in Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award; The Cement Garden; Enduring Love; Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize; Atonement; Saturday; On Chesil Beach; Solar; Sweet Tooth; The Children Act; Nutshell; and Machines Like Me, which was a number-one bestseller. 

Atonement, Enduring Love, The Children Act and On Chesil Beach have all been adapted for the big screen.

About the book

When the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has descended, young Roland Baines’s life is turned upside down. 2,000 miles from his mother’s protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracts his piano teacher Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.

Twenty-five years later Roland’s wife mysteriously vanishes, leaving him alone with their baby son. He is forced to confront the reality of his rootless existence. As the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spreads across Europe he begins a search for answers that looks deep into his family history and will last for the rest of his life.

From the Suez and Cuban Missile crises, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Covid pandemic and climate change, Roland sometimes rides with the tide of history but more often struggles against it. Haunted by lost opportunities, he seeks solace through every possible means – literature, travel, friendship, drugs, sex and politics. A profound love is cut tragically short. Then, in his final years, he finds love again in another form. His journey raises important questions. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we learn from the traumas of the past?

Review

Imagine a cut being made at an early age – a slight incision, but one that leaves small indiscernible traces from that point forward. Switch the incision for the interaction with Miriam and the result is the way abuse becomes a part of the fabric of Roland’s life, being, memories and soul. There is no event or interaction after the fact that isn’t in some way tainted by that time in his life.

I really enjoyed the way the author dissects the myriad of confusing emotions Roland experiences throughout his life. There is no closure, because he feels both guilt and the elephant in the room telling him what it really was. Such is the nature of beast called grooming, that the victim is persuaded to feel and believe that they enjoyed, asked for or initiated it.

It’s both interesting and tragic that when the abuse victim is a young boy or man and the abuser a woman, that there is this narrative of applause for the big man who has managed to ‘seduce’ the older woman. Instead of seeing the female predator for what she is of course.

It’s pensive and raw, especially when the world around Roland always seems to return to the inner child. His relationships with everyone in his circle, his work and goals in life. Never quite at peace. It’s an excellent read.

Buy Lessons at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: ‎Jonathan Cape – Vintage; pub date 13 Sept. 2022 – £20.00 | Hardback | ebook. Buy at Amazon com.

#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 Yellow Kitchen by Margaux Vialleron

It’s my turn on the Blogtour The Yellow Kitchen by Margaux Vialleron. ‘Expectation meets Julie & Julia, The Yellow Kitchen is a brilliant exploration of food, belonging and friendship.’

About the Author

Margaux Vialleron is a French-born, London-based writer, self-taught cook and co-host of the The Salmon Pink Kitchen book club, culinary community and podcast. The Yellow Kitchen is her first novel. 

Find out more at her website margauxvialleron.com or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @margauxvlln.

About the book

London E17, 2019. A yellow kitchen stands as a metaphor for the lifelong friendship between three women: Claude, the baker, goal-orientated Sophie and political Giulia. They have the best kind of friendship, chasing life and careers; dating, dreaming and consuming but always returning to be reunited in the yellow kitchen.

That is, until a trip to Lisbon unravels unexplored desires between Claude and Sophie. Having sex is one thing, waking up the day after is the beginning of something new. Exploring the complexities of female friendship, The Yellow Kitchen is a hymn to the last year of London as we knew it and a celebration of the culture, the food and the rhythms we live by.

Review

It’s an interesting one. I think it’s the kind of story that every reader – specifically women, will relate to – or not, through their own frame of reference. A very specific frame of reference – the relationship and bond between daughters and mothers. 

On the periphery it’s also about friendships, close friendships between women, especially long-term ones. The author captures an often overlooked and forgotten aspect of close friendships, when the boundaries of the bonds are slightly adjusted, which can solidify or make them slowly dissipate. The author also captures the minutiae of interactions, micro aggressions, passive aggressive subconscious moves. When two become three it can become a ticking timebomb of emotions.

Claude, Sophie and Giulia ultimately find themselves exploring their own identity, their first bond with another woman, and in a strange way a second sort of coming-of-age. When a woman enters an age of reflection and introspection, when the similarities between the mother and evident in the woman the daughter has become.

The writing style reminded me at times of flash fiction or performance art – many messages and thoughts thrown out into the universe in the hopes that some will provoke, others will make you pause and think. I found it refreshing and innovative.

Buy The Yellow Kitchen at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Simon & Schuster UK; pub date 7 July 2022 | Hardback | £14.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Simon and Schuster.

#Blogtour The Silk Pavilion by Sarah Walton

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Silk Pavilion by Sarah Walton.

About the Author

The pandemic has restricted Sarah Walton to the Sussex Downs of late, but she is restless for encounters around the world. A digital pioneer in California n the.com era, she remains a leading figure  in digital innovation and corporate storytelling. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and lectures on Hull University’s Online MA Creative Writing. 

Sarah also teaches her Soul Writing method, that combines meditation, free-writing and creative writing skills. This bis her third novel. Follow @sarahwalton on Twitter, Visit drsarahwalton.com

About the book

Lucy is on assignment. A wild, reclusive writer awaits her. She wants his life story. He wants her everything. A whirlwind romance takes them to the highs and lows of Deià. But beneath them lie the bodies of a generation and as Lucy unearths the darkness, her own skeletons begin to rattle the closet.

A brilliant, steamy, summer read – on the Mallorcan coast, a young woman uncovers the history of a nation, of a rogue Spanish writer, and of herself.

Review

There is a huge contradiction between the emotional reaction and physical ones – the latter being lived out and the first narrated as an inner dialogue between the reader and the character. It has psychological connotations, almost as if the conscious and unconscious (subconscious) have their own stage appearances in the story. One after the other, trying to deliver their truth or what they assume to be their truth.

The gut reaction of repulsion (inner dialogue) and the physical desire, which then leads to sexual acts, even when the feeling of being repulsed by Miguel is almost overpowering. From the first page there are parallel paths of red flag gut instincts and self-warnings, and the romanticised drive that fuels the physical interactions.

Running alongside this path of self-flagellation in the form of degradation, risky choices and complete submission to familiar abusive traits, are historical issues in Lucy’s past. Then to top it off a complex layer of the history of Franco’s Spain, and the waves of pain and destruction it left in its wake.

It’s a complex, and yet eerily engaging piece of literature. The author has an interesting way of creating a visceral bond between reader and story, and yet the reactions are often filled with the same kind of revulsion the main character experiences. The result is the kind of pull and hook that just doesn’t let you go.

Buy The Silk Pavilion at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Barbican Press pub date 9 Jun. 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy at the Barbican Press.

#BlogTour The White Girl by Tony Birch

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The White Girl by Tony Birch. It’s an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

About the Author

Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin literary prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. 

He is also the author of Shadowboxing and four short story collections, Dark As Last Night, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People; and the poetry collections, Broken Teeth and Whisper Songs. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award for his contribution to Australian literature. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist. His website is: tony-birch.com

About the book

“A profound allegory of good and evil, and a deep exploration of human interaction, black and white, alternately beautiful and tender, cruel and unsettling.”—Guardian

Australia’s leading indigenous storyteller makes his American debut with this immersive and deeply resonant novel, set in the 1960s, that explores the lengths we’ll go to save the people we love—an unforgettable story of one native Australian family and the racist government that threatens to separate them.

Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small Australian country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane—secrets that could explain why Odette’s daughter, Lila, left her one-year-old daughter, Sissy, and never came back, or why Sissy has white skin when her family is Aboriginal.

For thirteen years, Odette has quietly raised her granddaughter without drawing notice from welfare authorities who remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. But the arrival of a new policeman with cruel eyes and a rigid by-the-book attitude throws the Brown women’s lives off-kilter. It will take all of Odette’s courage and cunning to save Sissy from the authorities, and maybe even lead her to find her daughter.

Bolstered by love, smarts, and the strength of their ancestors, Odette and Sissy are an indomitable force, handling threats to their family and their own identities with grace and ingenuity, while never losing hope for themselves and their future.

In The White Girl, Miles Franklin Award-nominated author Tony Birch illuminates Australia’s devastating post-colonial past—notably the government’s racist policy of separating Indigenous children from their families, known today as the Stolen Generations—and introduces a tight-knit group of charming, inspiring characters who remind us of our shared humanity, and that kindness, hope, and love have no limits.

Review

I’m not sure about other readers, but when I read a book about minorities, the indigenous of any country, the oppressed or the vulnerable – just as an example, I often presume the events are historical. When I say historical I mean over a century or more, and I am often dismayed by the reality of the actual truth. That for the majority we are talking recent events, in modern times when the world should have been condemning such oppression and atrocities.

Odette is a fictional example perhaps, but I think probably a softer version of the awful truth of the way the colonisers have treated the indigenous people of Australia. This story takes place in the 1960s – a long time after the first early colonial period of certain parts of Australia. In a Podunk rural town where white and indigenous are still segregated. The indigenous people live outside in a specified area and are only allowed into the white town on a specific day and for a short period of time. 

Odette takes care of her young granddaughter, who has now reached an age where her presence has become of interest to both the authorities, and she is also vulnerable to the predators who perceive indigenous women especially, as of no worth or chattel of the white man.

The young girl is fair-skinned, and the authorities feel it is their duty to remove those children – white passing – in order to place them in an environment conducive to a less native and savage environment. To save their souls. Odette starts to realise that the danger her family has always faced is starting to wander in the path of her granddaughter. 

This book should be on more prize lists –  I am surprised it isn’t and that it hasn’t had more traction this side of the pond. It is an incredible piece of work, which is only more admirable when you consider the subtlety of the approach to the sensitive topics in this story. The atmosphere is a stark reminder of reality, and indeed the reader almost walks alongside Odette, that’s how vivid a picture the author presents.

The displacement, essentially kidnap, of whole generations of indigenous of children has burdened further generations with generational trauma. Children who survived the system and never saw their families again, parents who never got over having their children stolen. At this point it is important to note that just recently the reality of what really happened to the majority of these children is being unearthed. The mass graves, the unmarked graves of so many abused and neglected indigenous children. It’s more than a tragedy, it’s a disgrace – absolutely unforgivable.

I wouldn’t hesitate to read or recommend this author after reading this. As I was reading I was envisaging the screen version of this – I would love to see Deborah Mailman make Odette come to life. Either way this story needs more circulation, so more people can read it. It’s poignant, it is a story that grabs you tightly as it tears you into the murky depths of colonial guilt and the criminal atrocities committed under the auspice of malevolent colonialism and white supremacy. And I might add – the author only skims the surface of the aforementioned.

Buy The White Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HarperVia pub date 28 April 2022). Buy at Amazon comAt Harper Collins.

When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley.

About the Author

A native of Nyack, New York, Soon Wiley received his BA in English & Philosophy from Connecticut College. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University. His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and earned him fellowships in Wyoming and France. He resides in Connecticut with his wife and their two cats. When We Fell Apart is his debut novel.

About the book

A profoundly moving and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties that bind families together – or break them apart…

When the Seoul police inform Min that his girlfriend Yu-jin has taken her own life, he’s sure it can’t be true. She was successful, ambitious, happy, just on the cusp of graduating from university and claiming the future she’d always dreamed of. Min, on the other hand, born to an American father and Korean mother, has never felt quite the same certainty as Yu-jin about his life’s path. 

After growing up in California, where he always felt ‘too Korean’ to fit in, he’s moved to Seoul in the hope that exploring his Korean heritage will help him find a sense of purpose. And when he meets Yu-jin, little does he know that their carefree relationship will set off a chain of events with tragic consequences for them both. Devastated by Yu-jin’s death, Min throws himself into finding out why she could have secretly wanted to die. 

Or did she? With a controlling and powerful government official father, and a fraught friendship with her alluring and destructive roommate So-ra, Yu-jin’s life was much more complex than she chose to reveal to Min. And the more he learns about her, the more he begins to doubt he ever really knew her at all.

As Yu-jin’s story – a fraught exploration of selfhood, coming-of-age, and family expectations – collides with Min’s, the result is an engrossing page-turner that poses powerful, urgent questions about cultural identity, family bonds, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

Review

This is one of those reads I really want to talk about – get into the nitty-gritty of the premise, but I am also mindful of giving away the whole story.

Although the characters are quite similar in a sense that they are looking for a certain degree of autonomy, independence and searching for their self, their identity and it is indeed a discovery of self. Simultaneously they couldn’t be more different, and their paths are actually going in opposite directions, although for a while they walk together on the same path.

Yu-jin, my heart breaks for her and anyone who has to live up to the expectations of Tiger-parents (Tiger equality there). There are certain cultures where those expectations are higher, and held to a higher ransom, than say in other cultures. In a world where the pressure to succeed and be the best is already a standard bar, the failure to do so can appear to be the end of the world, especially when loved ones attach such importance to success.

There is no space for personal choice, for a pursuit of personal happiness. It’s not hard to imagine that for many young people the bar is too high and/or the fear of disappointing family and society is the last drop in the already very full barrel.

Min is an interesting character, and I think he is indicative of many who straddle two cultures, multiple origin stories. Feeling obligated to understand and become one with an identity that is drifting into the realms forgotten historical heritage and feeling as if the one you are living in and with daily is someone sub-par. The truth and peace lies somewhere in between the two. Know who you are, where you came from, and forge your own path.

It’s both a pivotal and heart-breaking piece of literature. Two people intersecting on each others trajectories, but perhaps never really knowing or understanding the other completely. I really enjoyed it and hope this is the first of many by this author.

Buy When We Fell Apart at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon and Schuster Uk, pub date 12th May 2022 | Hardback | £14.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Simon and Schuster.

#BlogTour Vanda by Marion Brunet

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Vanda by Marion Brunet, translated by Katherine Gregor. 

‘Vanda follows on from the success of last year’s The Summer of Reckoning: winner of the prestigious French mystery prize Grand Prix de Littérature policière, shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger in the UK, The Times Book of the Month.’

About the Author

Marion Brunet, born in 1976, is a well-known Young Adult and Literary Fiction author in France. Her YA novels have received over 30 prizes, including the 2017 UNICEF Prize for Youth Literature. Marion has previously worked as a special needs educator and now writes her fiction in Marseilles.

Vanda follows on from the success of Summer of Reckoning and is her second work to be translated into English. Follow Marion Brunet on Goodreads

About the Translator

Katherine Gregor lives in London and has recently translated works by Alexander Pushkin from the Russian and plays by Carlo Goldoni and Luigi Pirandello from the Italian. Follow translator Katherine Gregor @ScribeDoll on Twitter

About the book

Set in Marseilles, this is the story of Vanda, a beautiful woman in her thirties, arms covered in tats, skin so dark that some take her for a North African. Devoted to her six-year-old son Noé, they live in a derelict shed by the beach. She had wanted to be an artist; she is now a cleaner in a psychiatric hospital. But Vanda is happy living alone with her boy. “The two of them against the world”, as she says. 

Everything changes when Simon, the father of her son, surfaces in Marseilles. He had left Vanda seven years earlier, not knowing that she was pregnant. When Simon demands custody of his son, Vanda’s suppressed rage threatens to explode. The tension becomes unbearable, both parents fully capable of extreme violence.

Review

I know for many this story equates to an image of motherhood, the lioness who will protect her offspring no matter the consequences. She will do anything to keep the outside world from taking him and interfering. That relationship takes precedence above everything and anyone else, including that of the other parent – in this case the father who doesn’t become aware of his son until six years after Vanda gave birth to him.

I didn’t take any of that away from this story. What stands out for me is the pure narcissism, the selfishness, and the complete and utter lack of accountability for choices and actions. Vanda lives life on the seat of her pants. Instant gratification is her mantra – people, parties, substance abuse and of course sexual gratification.

Does that mean Vanda isn’t a victim of a patriarchal society, of abuse or assault? Does it mean she isn’t a strong woman who is willing to stand up for what is right and protect the weaker? No, but it also doesn’t negate the fact she isn’t a perfect example of motherhood. This story is a perfect example of neglect, of a bond created on the lack of equality between a child who has no other source of basic needs than his mother, and a mother to whom he is a second thought and an obstacle.

So, no this wasn’t an example of a paragon of virtuous motherhood and a strong woman protecting the bond between mother and child. It is one of a person who is incapable of making the right choices for her son, because her needs and sense of superiority and possession will always come first. To the detriment of herself, those around her, and of course her child.

Brunet has a knack for writing a story that can create a division and make us aware of the fact that depending on our own frame of references the reader will digest, experience and ultimately come to completely different views on the material they have read. It’s also that noirish quality of her work, which captivates whilst stirring the emotions, that has readers coming back for more. The translator manages to capture the essence perfectly.

Buy Vanda at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Bitter Lemon Press, pub date 22 April 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Bitter Lemon Press.

#BlogTour A Man of Understanding by Diana Janney

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour A Man of Understanding by Diana Janney. A stand out piece of literary fiction.

About the Author

Diana Janney is the author of the novels The Choice and The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose, which has been translated into German, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese. It was produced by the BBC as an audiobook and the film rights were sold.

Formerly she practised as a barrister in London after having qualified as a solicitor at a leading City of London international law firm. She read Philosophy at University College, London, where she received a First for her Masters thesis on Kant and Hume, and three Scholarships. She has received international acclaim for her writing, which combines her philosophical knowledge with her wit, poetry and keen observation of human nature. Diana lives on the Kent/Sussex borders. She has spent most of her adult life living in London.

About the book

It takes a man of understanding to rebuild a shattered soul: a man with a deep and learned grasp of philosophy and poetry, a man who can nurture and inspire an enquiring mind, a man with the wit and humour to bring the world alive. That enigmatic man is Horatio Hennessey.

His grandson Blue is that shattered soul. Following the death of twelve-year-old Blue’s parents, he arrives in the mountains of Mallorca, to live with the grandfather he has never met. But is Horatio, ‘Granga’ to Blue, upto the challenge? Or is he merely trying, through his own grandson, to make good his past? Gradually a bond evolves between them through a shared love of poetry. But when secrets are uncovered, will understanding turn to misunderstand? Will two souls be shattered this time?

Review

One could say it’s pretentious and ambitious  – it certainly speaks of a belief in a certain level of academic prowess and talent, when literary work is described in the confines, boundaries and expectations of poetry, philosophy and literature. And here we are. This book manages to work within those expectations, cross the boundaries and expand upon the expectations, and it is also so much more at the same time.

I tell no lie when I say that I shed a tear at the end. Not for the story or the characters per se, but rather for the beauty this work entails and encompasses, and brings together so seamlessly. A melding of word art, emotional turmoil and entwining it with such a firm grasp on existential thoughts and fears.

No thought or word to be uttered without deeper introspection. No interaction noted or action taken without an exploration of depth of connection, of creativity, and acknowledgement of simply being – of existence.

I adored it. I love the art of poetry, and questions of philosophy that burn to be dissected. This is such a wonderful combination of the two, which is only enhanced by the presence of the Blue and Horatio. The stripping of persona and relationships to the core of inner essence – soul, if one can identify something so elusive and tangible. Then using core emotions of grief, abandonment, the need to belong and be loved to drive this powerful story to a conclusion, which is in itself once more a beginning or end, a door to be closed or opened. Beautiful work.

Buy A Man of Understanding at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Cogito Publishing, pub date 7th April 2022 – paperback – £8.99. Buy via Cogito Publishing.

#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.

#Review Notes On An Execution by Danya Kukafka

This is a fascinating read and Danya Kukafka is an excellent writer.

About the Author

Danya Kukafka is the bestselling author of the novels Notes On An Execution and Girl In Snow. She is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She works as a literary agent. Follow @danyakukafka on Twitter

About the book

Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. – He knows what he’s done, and now awaits the same fate he forced on those girls, years ago. Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. – But this is not his story.

As the clock ticks down, three women uncover the history of a tragedy and the long shadow it casts. Lavender, Ansel’s mother, is a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation. Hazel, twin sister to his wife, is forced to watch helplessly as the relationship threatens to devour them all. And Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, is devoted to bringing bad men to justice but struggling to see her own life clearly. – This is the story of the women left behind.

Review

I first heard about this book on Twitter a few months ago and pre-ordered a copy based on what I was hearing, then I actually bought the Audiobook too. I found the premise intriguing, and I wasn’t disappointed at all – this is an excellent read.

It’s going to be really difficult to do this book the justice it deserves without giving too much away. The author weaves the complex layers of this psychological read, that veers into the literary sphere, with such expertise and detailed nuance – it is truly an indicator of a talented scribe and storyteller.

Narrated by the main character Ansel, the man on death row, and the women who have been a part of his life. The women who defined him, the women who called for his accountability, and the women who were his victims in one way or other. It’s a ticking clock, a timer, a revisiting of truths. His, their truths and the facts that meet both stories in the middle.

The boy, who like many others, is born into a world of violence and depravation, and subsequently abandoned or saved. It depends on the way you look at it. It’s easy to lay the blame for his future behaviour and crimes at the feet of an abusive parent and an absentee one. The truth is perhaps a little more complex, predictive behaviour and a genetic disposition in culmination with the worst start in life can result in a person who rightly ends up behind bars on death row.

The only aspect I wondered about was the connection between Lavender to Ansel at the end and whether it should have taken more of a centre stage, but then I thought about the intent, symbolism, emotional bond and power. More importantly, where all of those things should lie, because in her own way the author makes an argument for the both the hypocrisy and cruelty of the death sentence, whilst simultaneously proving why sometimes it is the only true solution. It may not be justice – there is no justice for certain crimes, but it is closure. 

Kudos to Kukafka for the ending, the homage and the lost possibilities – very well said. It also gives and leaves the power with those who are deserving of it. This is certainly one of my top reads of the year.

Buy Notes On An Execution at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: Phoenix  pub date 3 Feb. 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Bookshop.org