Hot Summer 2018 Reads by Women in Translation

Exciting English debuts, newly discovered masterpieces, and award winners—forget the weather, if we’re judging this summer by its new releases by women in translation, it’s a hot one.  Check out these summer 2018 books by women in translation!

In the Distance With You by Carla Guelfenbein, translated by John Cullen

A Chilean literary thriller that tells the story of three lives enmeshed in the life and death of an enigmatic and private author, based on Brazilian writer and legend Clarice Lispector. Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World, writes: “Guelfenbein’s elegantly structured, psychologically astute novel moves with the urgency of a detective novel, but its real mysteries turn on questions of authorship, reading, interpretation, and the strange power of fiction to enter the speechless realm of human erotic desire.” Published for the first time in English, this award-winning novel couldn’t have hit at a better time—it’s big and brilliant and you’ll want to sink into it on a beach somewhere.

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft

Winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, Flights is one of the hottest novels of the summer. Masterfully told in striking short pieces, Flights “explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time.” It’s meticulously and brilliantly translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft. If you need more convincing, Olga Tokarczuk’s writing is being compared to that of W.G. Sebald and Milan Kundera and she’s also on the longlist for the Alternate Nobel!

Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes, translated by Emma Ramadan

Virginie Despentes is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and critic. If the buzz around her recently published books—including Bye Bye BlondieApocalypse Baby, and others—is any indication, Despentes is hot and only going to get hotter with this new release. Pretty Things is a lurid, pulpy story of family, death, and gender. Joanna Walsh, author of Worlds from the Word’s End, calls it “An intoxicating pop-trash plot of stolen identity that reveals the brutal and hilarious rules of gender—the high octane philosophy beach read of the summer.”

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori 

From one of Japan’s most exciting contemporary writers, Convenience Store Woman is a dark, funny, and compelling novel with a heroine that defies convention and description. Keiko Furukura has worked at a convenience store for 18 years, comfortable in the patterns and norms of the store and its customers but aware of her family and society’s general disappointment in her. When a young man enters her life she has the chance to change everything—if she wants to. I love this quote about the book from Jade Chang, author of The Wangs Vs. the World, “Instructions: Open book. Consume contents. Feel charmed, disturbed, and weirdly in love. Do not discard.”

The Geography of Rebels Trilogy by Maria Gabriela Llansol, translated by Audrey Young

The Geography of Rebels Trilogy present three linked novellas by influential *cult status level* Portuguese writer Maria Gabriela Llansol. She’s all but unknown to English-speaking audiences, but with this English debut that’s all about to change. “With echoes of Clarice Lispector, Llansol’s novellas evoke her vision of writing as life, conjuring historical figures and weaving together history, poetry, and philosophy in a transcendent journey through one of Portugal’s greatest creative minds.”

Ma Bo’le’s Second Life by Xiao Hong, translated by Howard Goldblatt

Xiao Hong has been called “the best female Chinese novelist you haven’t heard of” and “one of the major Chinese literary figures of the century.” Edited and finished by the translator, Howard Golblatt, based on Xiao Hong’s notes, Ma Bo’le’s Second Life is an interesting, undiscovered gem of a novel set in China in the period building up to the second Sino-Japanese War. It’s a bleak but surprisingly funny “depiction of the despair of ordinary Chinese people confronted with the sudden onslaught of war and Westernization.”

People in the Room by Norah Lange, translated by Charlotte Whittle

Long viewed as Borges’s muse, Norah Lange has been widely overlooked as a writer in her own right. Translated for the first time into English, People in the Room is an intense, haunting, and canon-breaking novel that completely overwhelmed me. Borges who? A young woman is looking out her window in the midst of a thunderstorm when she catches sight of three women in the house across the street from her. She begins to watch, obsess over, and imagine the secrets and lies of the women in the window. “Lange’s imaginative excesses and almost hallucinatory images make this uncanny exploration of desire, domestic space, voyeurism, and female isolation a twentieth century masterpiece.”

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

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Remembering Jane

Jane Austen, one of England’s foremost and most beloved novelists, died 200 years ago today, July 18, 1817, at the age of 41. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral where thousands travel every year to pay their respects. Five years ago I went there myself, chasing Jane. I’ve chased Jane for much of my life, loving the wit, depth, and challenge of Jane Austen’s novels since day one. I studied abroad in the spring of 2012 in Bath, England, taking classes through Oxford and interning at the Jane Austen Centre. Living in Bath was a dream come true for a Janeite. Every day, I walked by places she lived and buildings and pathways she describes intimately in her novels. I explored who I was, the things I loved, and when I returned to New York I changed my major and embraced my desire to work in book publishing.

And now, dear readers, how could I possibly leave you without a list of books to satisfy all of your Jane Austen desires?

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin

One of the most well-recognized biographies of Jane Austen’s life, it’s also my favorite. It’s a vivid and immensely rich portrayal of Jane Austen, dismantling the image of Austen as a sheltered spinster. It’s not a light read by any means—Austen’s life was filled with tragedy and frustration—but it’s so worth the time. I’d also recommend Jane Austen’s Letters edited by Deirdre Le Faye.

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.”

I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of Jane Austen spin-offs and retellings available but if I could only read one it would be Longbourn by Jo Baker. It’s a downstairs retelling of Pride and Prejudice and while it has all of the romance and drama of the original it also captures the daily life of the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars. It adds this level of grit and nuance to the original that is fascinating.

 

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz

Don’t let anyone fool you—men love Jane Austen too! A Jane Austen Education by book critic William Deresiewicz is part memoir and part analysis of all six of Austen’s novels. Deresiewicz looks back at the arrogant young man he was when he first read Austen and details the lessons he’s taken away from each novel (Northanger Abbey: learning to learn, Persuasion: true friends.) It’s honest and moving and has this sweet, poignant ending that I just adored.

 

Other fun (and some bizarre, but hey I’m no purist) related titles that I recommend:

Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom by Deborah Yaffe

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Bridget Jones’s Diary: A Novel by Helen Fielding

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen by Arielle Eckstut and Dennis Ashton

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters

(Cover picture is from Penguin Books USA, shared on their Twitter. Isn’t it beautiful?)

Boston’s Best New Restaurants 2016

Boston Magazine just released their annual list of the top new restaurants in Boston and two of my absolute favorite new places to eat made the list. The first, Ganko Ittetsu Ramen, I already featured on the blog (remember this glorious picture?) And the second is Chef Tiffani Faison’s new restaurant Tiger Mama which is a blend of Thai, Vietnamese, and Malaysian cuisine. Just a shout out to these two restaurants (and all of the others that have now been added to my “must-eat” list!)

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