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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A fascinating and thought-provoking debut novel where the author focuses on the intimate lives of a family, which in turn opens up the Frankfurt Trials after the Second World War. Set in 1963 Germany, Eva Bruhn is hired as a translator for a war crimes trial, as she learns more about the war, her thoughts expand and she begins to question her parents and examine her childhood. Told in four parts, there are no chapters and I found myself constantly on edge and alert as events, characters and time moved backwards and forwards. The story takes its time to develop, allowing access to the family dynamics and Eva’s transition to understanding. Author Annette Hess is a successful screenwriter (which shows), in her note at the end she thanks the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt where she researched the first Auschwitz trial. She directly quoted from a number of participants at the trial, and merged other statements, so bringing an incredible feeling of reality to a compelling novel. Originally published in German, the translator Elisabeth Lauffer talks of her sense of responsibility to do justice to the story, to translate faithfully and thoughtfully the testimonies of Auschwitz survivors. This is an incredibly moving novel, it examines pack mentality and highlights how quickly humanity can collectively move on, while individual memories are left forever scarred. For a number of reasons The German House isn’t an easy read, it is powerful though, and I have chosen it as a Liz Robinson pick of the month. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
A simply fabulous conclusion to the unique and penetrating Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. You must start with Snare and Trap, and if you’ve already read them you will be drumming your fingers in eagerness, waiting for the arrival of Cage. Agla is in prison for financial misconduct, with no idea as to why Sonya abandoned her. Surrounded by drugs, smuggling, fraud, and violence, can they survive the maelstrom heading their way? Lilja Sigurdardottir pursues individual stories, setting up a chain of events that begin to slither together. The translation by Quentin Bates continues to shine. Crisp, punchy, tight writing ensured I devoured this read, from the first word through to an ending that completely and beautifully hit the spot. The cover of Cage, when sitting alongside the previous two novels is just divine and ensures the books stand out as much as they deserve to. With shocks and surprises in store, and that oh so satisfying end, Cage provoked, chilled, and thrilled me.
Expect the unexpected from the get-go as the prologue lights the touch paper to an intense, smirky, carnival ride of a fabulous read. You wont want it to stop! A valuable meteorite crash lands in a small Finnish town causing absolute mayhem. As Joel, the local pastor, guards the meteorite, he not only faces a crisis in his marriage but also a number of people who decide that the meteorite should be theirs, come what may! After the fiery prologue, chapter one slapped my attention to face a different direction. By the time chapter two arrived, I was sitting wide-eyed, this was setting itself up for a cracking read. I adore Antti Tuomainen’s books, he writes with a finely balanced pen, darker than dark humour hits with a provocative wallop, while feeling fresh and different. I was consumed by Little Siberia and all too soon, as the events around Joel unraveled, the ending hurtled towards me. Not only sharp, amusing, and provocative, this is also an incredibly thoughtful read, so Little Siberia receives an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
Blood Song continues in truly wonderful style what is an enthralling, astute, and absolutely cracking series. In 2016, members from a wealthy family are murdered in Sweden. With Profiler Emily Roy and true crime writer Alexis Castells on the case, the investigation heads into the past. This is the third in the Roy and Castells books, the plotting is fairly intricate, so it isn’t a series you can join half way through. My advice if you haven't met them before is to go back to the beginning and start with the equally fabulous Block 46 followed by Keeper. As with previous books, we have multiple settings and time frames, this time the past focuses on the horrific civil war in Spain. The Author’s Note sits well at the beginning, with information about Franco’s regime, which I felt I needed before I started to read. Johana Gustawsson wields a seriously eloquent pen, she creates an acutely vivid picture while tackling the most difficult of subjects with a beautiful balance. David Warriner the translator ensured the thought of translation didn’t cross my mind while I was reading but I really appreciated the skill afterwards. Blood Song caught and has held onto my thoughts, it is clever, provocative, and a seriously good read.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.