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Exploring books that have been translated from a different language can lead to a really special reading experience. The skill of a translator is of course key, they need to be able to truly feel the book in order to successfully and seamlessly translate it. A great translator has the ability to make you feel right at home, while also letting you experience the wonders of a different culture. These books all encourage you to discover the sense of a different place, so we invite you to step forward and broaden your horizons.
Foreboding and chilling, this dramatic family tale creeps into your awareness and causes doubt and questions to multiply. When a tenant of a house in Bergan, Norway goes missing, owner and landlord Nina starts her own investigation. This is a novel to read slowly, to allow the words to sink in, so you can appreciate the pattern and movement. Agnes Ravatn (and translator Rose Hedger) have teamed up again after their award winning The Bird Tribunal. They have the ability to create one heck of an unsettling atmosphere, and this isn’t a comfortable read. The characters are flawed, feel so very real, and at times made me wince. Short abrupt sentences, the lack of quotation marks, and a marked jagged boundary between chapters creates a decided edge. Layers of unease built as I questioned everyone and everything, and the ending when it comes feels inevitable and perfect. Blanketed in an ominous sheet of tension, The Seven Doors is an intriguing, compelling and penetrating read.
With short fast-moving chapters this is a piercing and riveting political thriller. Sitting within a time period of just over two weeks, former aid worker Ursula finds herself in deep water when she becomes Minister for the Interior in Iceland. Author Lilja Sigurdardottir and translator Quentin Bates team up again after the successful and fiercely intense Reykjavik Noir trilogy which I absolutely adored. The writing here is just as smart and powerful with dirty politics and corruption leading the charge and an otherwordly feel slinking around in the background. A number of characters are introduced, from Ursula who takes a high-profile role in government, to driver and bodyguard Gunnar, and cleaner Stella. A picture slows builds with a teetering edge of tension remaining in place throughout. I hovered on the edge of knowing and understanding, my focus sharp and waiting for what was to come. In summary, Betrayal is an edge-of-your-seat political thriller just brimming over with attitude.
With a stabbing intensity and glowering atmosphere this is a crime novel with huge attitude. As it becomes apparent that the police have missed connecting a number of violent and brutal crimes against women, an officer on the edge begins to link the offences. This is the second in the Axel Steen Series by Jesper Stein but my first, and I was more than happy jumping straight in, so like me you can start here. Also like me, you then may well want to hunt down a copy of Unrest! Translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund, the social and everyday differences of Denmark are still wonderfully tangy and sharp. The prologue sets the scene in Copenhagen 2004, blunt and dark I flinched as Axel Steen stamped his way into my mind. I was well and truly hooked, and set everything aside while I read. I wasn’t sure that I was going to like Axel, but as a cop in a novel, I loved him! The word gritty is often scattered through reviews for crime novels, but gritty is absolutely appropriate here and comes with extra emphasis. Die for Me is a wonderful addition for the list of any Scandi noir fans, and I say: it’s a Liz Pick of the Month for me, bring on the third in the series!
So, so readable, Of Ants and Dinosaurs with the lightest and brightest of touches, made my brain itch with its creativity and klaxon alarm. Perfect for readers from young adult on, this sets itself as a “satirical fable, a political allegory and ecological warning”. In a time long long ago ants and dinosaurs joined forces to build a magnificent civilisation, when doom threatens will the dinosaurs listen to the ants? Cixin Liu is China’s number one science-fiction writer and his The Three-Body Problem was the first translated novel to win a Hugo award. I just love the cover, and the ants marching across the chapter pages had me smiling. As soon as I started to read my attention was well and truly caught. The prologue sets the scene with wonder and I read and believed without a moment's doubt. While portraying the ant and dinosaur alliance, there is very much a warning to the human race here. Deceptively simple and brilliantly clever, Of Ants and Dinosaurs just has to sit as a Liz Pick of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book, I simply adored it.
You just have to say Oslo Detectives series and it conjures up everything you need to know, this is Nordic Noir with knobs on! Detective Frolich investigates a simple missing person case, but as a killer strikes, so the complexity rises. This could be read quite successfully as a standalone novel as Frolich has turned private investigator and it suggests a beginning. Do pop Faithless and The Ice Swimmer on your list though and start with these if you can! Kjell Ola Dahl writes with such crisp clarity, and translator Don Bartlett is on point as it feels as though not a word has been wasted. Short, sharp sentences pounce. I love how the story builds, the plot almost turns itself inside out, and yet is kept as tight as can be. There are no easy tick-box answers on offer here. Bang up-to-date, Sister is a raw, real, and fabulous read.
A thoughtfully intricate and fascinating novel which tells two stories in a most unusual way. Yoel Blum, grandfather and famous Israeli author, travels to Amsterdam and finds that everything he thought he knew about himself has been turned on its head. Setting forth into the history of his family and the Jewish community within Amsterdam during World War Two, Yoel Blum begins to understand himself and his relationships. This isn't a loud or boisterous tale, yet the clarity is piercing. The detail of the underground networks hiding Jewish children in the Second World War is full of impact. Emuna Elon has the most beautiful way with words, her descriptions took me by the hand and led me into their very midst. There are no speech marks or indications of changing time frames, however I never felt out of place. The translation from Hebrew has been completed with great skill by Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, this is a novel to read slowly, to experience, to become a part of. House on Endless Waters is a beautifully eloquent family mystery highlighting human tragedy and resilience.
Just that little bit different (in fact strikingly different), Mexico Street challenges preconceptions and society issues, ensuring a full-on fabulous read. German public prosecutor Chastity is back, this time investigating a series of arson attacks that lead to the death of a man linked to criminal gangs. One thing to note straightaway is that I really feel you do need to have read the others in the Chastity Riley series to fully enjoy this one, otherwise too much would be unexplained and you would have to sprint like heck to keep up. Start with Blue Night, followed by Beton Rouge, both equally readable and also translated with surety by Rachel Ward. As usual Simone Buchholz snared my attention from the get-go. The words stormed my senses, falling like a sword and I found myself on full alert. Short, sharp, shocks of chapters hit, with the chapter headings almost creating their own story. Mexico Street, full of sparks and quirks, is 227 pages of wonderful. Adding to the series beautifully, I just had to include it as one of my Liz picks of the month.
A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.
Set in Iceland, this novel introduces a new policing team in a tense and unsettling crime novel. Winner of Iceland’s Blackbird Award and translated by prizewinning Victoria Cribb The Creak on the Stairs marks the beginning of a new series. The prologue provokes a sense of unease, which lies in wait through the rest of the tale. Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir gradually introduces more characters, adding more layers of information and increasing the intrigue. We are allowed to see into the past, childhoods torn apart, still affecting the present. The policing team are an interesting bunch, with their outside lives altering their investigating ability. The setting in Iceland is fascinating, the descriptions creating a vivid picture of the reality of living in a small town. The Creak on the Stairs is a captivating tale with plenty of tension and a plot to really get your teeth into.
A pretty fabulous first book in what I truly hope is a continuing crime series. Bestselling authors Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst have teamed up to create not only some really interesting lead characters, but they also breathe fresh air into the fabulous tradition of Nordic Noir. A famous athlete fails to show at her autobiography book launch, when news blogger Emma Ramm finds signs of a struggle, police officer Alexander Blix begins a missing person enquiry that quickly turns more serious. As is usual with translated Orenda books, I just stepped straight in and read without a thought for the fabulous translation by Anne Bruce. Horst and Enger have set this novel firmly in the here and now, apart from the prologue which sets the scene for Blix. Death Deserved is a fast-moving, punchy, serial killer investigative novel with a whammy of an ending. If this is the first in the Blix and Ramm series, then here’s to many more!
A collection of Kafka's greatest short fiction, translated by Michael Hofmann Kafka's masterpiece of unease and black humour, Metamorphosis, the story of an ordinary man transformed into an insect, is brought together in this collection with the rest of his works that he thought worthy of publication. It includes Contemplation, a collection of his earlier short studies; The Judgement, written in a single night of frenzied creativity; The Stoker, the first chapter of a novel set in America; and an eyewitness account of an air display. Together, these stories, fragments and miniature gems reveal the breadth of his vision, his sense of the absurd, and above all his acute, uncanny wit. Translated with an introduction by Michael Hofmann
An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.