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 incredibly smart, taut, and pacy crime thriller set in Norway. An unsolved kidnapping thrusts itself back into play when police officer Alexander Blix and investigative journalist and blogger Emma Ramm are caught up in an explosion on New Years Eve in Oslo. The Blix and Ramm Series is a blast of pure reading entertainment from Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, internationally best-selling Norwegian authors who joined forces to create this series. Death Deserved was a cracking start and Smoke Screen just cements this pair as a formidable writing duo. I also just want to do a shout out to translator Megan Turney, this is so easy to read that I didn’t stop to think that it was translated. The immediate hook at the start set my mind racing, and it didn’t let up until the end. Flashbacks are effectively used to highlight important back stories. The two main characters are independently interesting and capable of carrying the tale, and the links from each of their plot lines gradually fuse together to create an explosive end. Smoke Screen is an enthralling continuation in a series that I can highly recommend.
With the death of her aunt, Maria Stepanova is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century. In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms - essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue and historical documents - Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.
LONGLISTED FOR THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE People say 'I'm sorry' all the time when it can mean both 'I'm sorry I hurt you' and 'I'm sorry someone else did something I have nothing to do with'. It's like the English language gave up on trying to find a word for sympathy which wasn't also the word for guilt. Swedish immigrant Kristin won't talk about the Project growing inside her. Her Brazilian-born Scottish boyfriend Ciaran won't speak English at all; he is trying to immerse himself in a Swedish sprakbad language bath, to prepare for their future, whatever the fick that means. Their Edinburgh flat is starting to feel very small. As this young couple is forced to confront the thing that they are both avoiding, they must reckon with the bigger questions of the world outside, and their places in it.
A beautifully written, smart yet dark novel novel of suspense and tension. A family from a small nearly abandoned village in northern Sweden find themselves a target when rumours suggest that they own a fortune. I absolutely raved about Stina Jackson’s award-winning debut, The Silver Road, and this her second novel hits the just the right notes too. She has the ability to inject moments of light and hope within the darkness that holds the story in its grasp. Translated by Susan Beard, I could feel all the differences of Sweden yet felt entirely at home within the words. The background tale from 1998 begins to fill in the gaps in the present. A real sense of menace is created, and something unforgivable lurks, waiting to be found. The characters are as deep as the tone is dark, and I read with bated breath. The Last Snow cements Stina Jackson as an author to watch, this is a story that just thrums with foreboding atmosphere and demands to be read, highly recommended.
Taut, tenacious storytelling squeezes thoughts and feelings in this chilling read. Winterkill continues the Dark Iceland series in Iceland’s most northerly town as a snow storm hits. A 19 year old falls to her death, and a diary entry suggests that it wasn’t an accident while a man in a nursing home writes “she was murdered” on the wall of his room. This is the sixth and apparently last in a series that pulses with chilling atmosphere and energy. Translated from the French edition by David Warriner, he ensures Ragnar Jonasson’s trademark biting and uncomplicated style is allowed freedom to sing. Now an Inspector, Ari Thor Arason is as fascinating as ever. The storyline contains several strands, interesting characters, and Ari’s complicated relationships. This particular investigation has an unsettling and sad overtone, that lingers after finishing. Winterkill is a satisfying conclusion to a stimulating and readable series.
Containing more than a smirk of humour, this is a bold, vibrant crime caper set in Uruguay. When Diego is released from prison he reluctantly agrees to hold up an armoured truck. Along the way we also meet a crooked lawyer, brutal psychopath, amateur con artist, and police inspector, two of whom are women and fighting to hold their own with the men. Award-winning author Mercedes Rosende from Uruguay is also a lawyer and journalist. Her writing is sharp and pointed yet rich and earthy. I initially felt as though I was observing from a distance, then as I got to know each character I edged closer and closer to the action. I found myself completely caught up in the words, the translation by Tim Gutteridge placed me within a country I don’t know, yet enabled me to feel a connection. I didn’t question, just sank completely into the storyline, and as the synopsis declares: “never, ever underestimate the women”. Hugely entertaining, Crocodile Tears is a full-on, fresh yet heady read. The LoveReading LitFest invited Mercedes Rosende and translator Tim Gutteridge to the festival to talk about Crocodile Tears. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.
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.
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.
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: bring on the third in the series!
Provocative and unsettling this crime novel focuses on the predatory and merciless side of life. Private investigator Varg Veum reunites with former classmates at a funeral but a murder throws rekindled friendships up in the air. Fallen Angels forms part of the gripping and gritty Varg Veum series, the first of which was published in 1977. Gunnar Staalesen has since been published in 26 countries, and a statue of his protagonist Varg even sits in the centre of Bergen! This particular novel was first published in Norway in 1989 and is set in the 80’s, if you’ve already read his translated novels be aware that you are taking a step back in time. Taking place before other translated books in this series, it encourages an understanding of what makes Varg the man he is. There are parts which make for uncomfortable reading and I cringed as the seedier aspects of society were described. The painstaking aspects of investigations are clearly felt. Gunnar Staalesen and translator Don Bartlett, excel in creating deliberately jarring sections, which sent a chilling shiver coursing through me. Fallen Angles is a book that is meant to make you feel perturbed, it is also an entirely fascinating read.
There is a decidedly unique and expressive tone to this beautifully written crime novel. Set on the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, The Coral Bride is the sequel to fabulous We Were the Salt of the Sea and forms part of the Detective Morales Series. What at first is treated as a missing person enquiry turns bleakly sinister after an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift. A chilling first chapter set my thoughts whirling and it took me a little while to settle. I most definitely felt as though I was in a different country, sometimes almost, another world entirely. Roxanne Bouchard conveys the mystical loneliness of the ocean with the charm of the small coastal towns, and it blends into a mysterious, perfumed and heady tale. She and translator David Warriner have created the silences, trips, and hesitations that appear in real conversations. These are words that sank into my thoughts and as I read, I felt as though I was caught up the depths of the tale. Snippets of viewpoints from others slip-slapped into my awareness, while occasional moments of smirky lightness added texture. This is an author to remember and a truly worthwhile series that I can recommend introducing yourself to. The Coral Bride transports you to an ocean community, sets thoughts adrift, and creates exquisite tension. A wonderful read, and so it slips straight into my monthly Liz Picks.
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.