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.
An absolute little treasure! After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro finds himself on an adventure with Tiger the talking cat, to help books that desperately need saving. This incredibly quirky and beautiful novel highlights the importance of books, friendship, and self-belief. The simplicity of the story highlights the warmth, the love, and the true power of books. It also encouraged me to explore my own relationship with books. Sosuke Natsukawa painted images straight into my thoughts, simple, clear, vividly bright, they still sit in my minds eye. A shout out to the translation by Louise Heal Kawai, as I felt as though I was reading the original Japanese version. If you, like me, think of books as being more than words on paper, if you talk to them and pat them, are moved by them and have thoughts altered by them, then I recommend The Cat Who Saved Books with my heart and soul. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it really would make the perfect gift, either for you, or another book-lover in your life.
An extraordinary and angry Russian novel about poisons of all kinds: physical, moral and political. Untraceable is a wonderful piece of fiction rooted in the recent history of Russia's state assassinations, especially the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Professor Kalitin is a ruthless, narcissistic chemist who has developed an untraceable, extremely lethal poison called Neophyte while working in a secret city on an island in the Russian far east. When the Soviet Union collapses, he defects and is given a new identity in Germany. After an unrelated Russian is murdered with Kalitin's poison, his cover is blown and he's drawn into the German investigation of the death. Two special forces killers with a lot of Chechen blood on their hands are sent to silence him - using his own undetectable poison. Their journey to their target is full of blunders, mishaps, holdups and accidents. Urgently topical and compellingly readable.
Taking in the cultural complexities of the Ottoman Empire through the compelling, criss-crossing stories of Levantine, Greek, Turkish and Armenian characters, Defne Suman’s The Silence of Scheherazade is an astounding feat of historical fiction - tremendously ambitious, and dazzlingly realised through the author’s exquisitely-threaded plotting and lush storytelling. It’s September, 1905, and one moment seals the fates of four very different families. This is the moment Scheherazade is born in cosmopolitan Smyrna to a mother numbed by opium. Though her namesake is the legendary storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights, she’s mute. A silent girl who grows up to bear witness to the brutality that eventually besets her city - the death and destruction, the expulsion of communities, the impending outbreak of WWI, and the burning. The magic of the city is dazzlingly evoked and intertwined with both the socio-political context and the very moving, very personal stories of this novel’s vast cast of characters. This is a novel to savour, to be dazzled by, to learn from, and reflect on. It invites utter immersion. The LoveReading LitFest invited Defne to the festival to talk about The Silence of Scheherazade. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Defne in conversation with Deborah Maclaren and find out why this is such a sumptuous tour de force of a book that everyone needs to read. Check out a preview of the event here.
A chilling tone and unsettling plot is wrapped up inside this cracking police procedural and psychological thriller. West Iceland CID investigate the death of a woman who went missing seven months previously. While suicide was the initial assumption, it's only when Marianna’s body is found that they can establish murder. This is the second in the Forbidden Iceland series, I recommend starting with The Creak on the Stairs which was a bestseller in Iceland, winning the Blackbird Award. While a police procedural, the other characters share the stage which ensures there are some fascinating trails of information to follow. In this book Eva Björg Ægisdottir cements the characters of the policing team. The vivid descriptions and haunting quality of the writing, which is so well translated by Victoria Cribb, ensured I could see and feel Iceland. Two stories sit side by side, each twisting around the other and allowing tension and intrigue access while themes of child neglect and social issues are thoughtfully handled. Girls Who Lie slithers and suggests and coils towards its thought-provoking conclusion, and I will be following this series with interest.
This piercing and smart crime novel almost creates a physical ache as it worms its way under your skin. Inspector Peter Hunkeler investigates a murder that appears to link to another and while colleagues blame a gang of drug smugglers, he begins to look in another less obvious direction. This is the award-winning and first to be translated book in the Inspector Hunkeler Series set in Switzerland on the border of France and Germany. The main character feels tightly wound as he stamps all over the pages, he is simple yet complicated, and entirely fascinating. Hansjorg Schneider writes with succinct sentences that gather and spill over into an evocative setting and plot. Translated by Mike Mitchell, the atmosphere slunk into my thoughts and haunted my reading. I witnessed Hunkeler as he scented the truth and allowed access to an awareness that sat just under the surface before breaking free. The Basel Killings is a story that lurks and scowls as it stomps its way to a compelling and interesting conclusion.
Summertime, 1935. On a lake near Berlin, a young man is out sailing when he glimpses a woman reclining in the prow of a passing boat. Their eyes meet - and one of history's greatest conspiracies is born. Harro Schulze-Boysen had already shed blood in the fight against Nazism by the time he and Libertas Haas-Heye began their whirlwind romance. She joined the cause, and soon the two lovers were leading a network of antifascists that stretched across Berlin's bohemian underworld. Harro himself infiltrated German intelligence and began funnelling Nazi battle plans to the Allies, including the details of Hitler's surprise attack on the Soviet Union. But nothing could prepare Harro and Libertas for the betrayals they would suffer in this war of secrets - a struggle in which friend could be indistinguishable from foe. Drawing on unpublished diaries, letters and Gestapo files, Norman Ohler spins an unforgettable tale of love, heroism and sacrifice.
Yun Ko-eun’s The Disaster Tourist is a triumph of originality and slick, satirical style. It’s a richly wry, cuttingly dark comedy that shines a light on the absurdities (and ethical dubiousness) of certain tourism practices, and on modern life more generally, with its understated lyricism packing poignant punch. Through Yona, we certainly see the bizarreness of the world we live in. A world in which a thirty-three-year-old woman works for a travel company that specialises in disaster tourism package holidays. To compensate Yona for being sexually harassed by him, her boss allows her to take a break on one of the trips they’re thinking of axing. What a deal! What a way to deal with harassment! Yona goes on the trip to the remote Vietnamese island of Mui, where the major attraction is a supposedly catastrophic sinkhole. When she becomes trapped here, the island takes on the appearance of “a theme park that wasn’t yet open”. Then, after making a hideous discovery, cutting truths are revealed like exposed nerves amidst escalating absurdity - and tragedy. Quite brilliant.