What I’ve Been Reading Lately: August 2017

Once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. It’s been two months since I last shared what I’ve been reading, and it’s been vacation time with plane rides and down time, so I’ve had a chance to read quite a few titles. Luckily, all of them were worth finishing this time.

Did you know that August is Women in Translation Month? I just learned that this month. I seized the opportunity to add some female authors in translation to my reading list.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (translated from Swedish by Henning Koch)

This was on my TBR list for a long time, but I was waiting for the audiobook (narrated by George Newbern) which was highly recommended by so many people. It didn’t disappoint. Ove was an interesting character and I had no idea what he was actually trying to do when I started reading the book. But really, my favorite character was his new nextdoor neighbor Parvaneh from Iran, pregnant mother of two young children who was married to the Swede Patrick. It’s a heartwarming story of a disconnected little community who come together over time. I actually shed a few happy tears at the end.

Bienes historie by Maja Lunde

I was quickly hooked on this Norwegian book (which will be available to English readers August 22, 2017, entitled The History of Bees translated by Diane Oatley). It’s a look at the role of bees in the past, present, and future from the perspective of a family in each of those time periods, and over time their stories intersect. The first storyline takes place in England in the mid-1850s when beehives are being improved, the second one in USA in 2007 when there is an increase in the number of colony collapse disorders happening, and the last one in China in 2098 when humans have had to resort to hand-pollination due to the total collapse of bees. I highly recommend it, and it will be out just in time to read for Women in Translation Month!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

This was our book club’s latest read. It was very good! I highly recommend it. It’s a historical novel about the Tulsa race riot of 1921. It jumps back and forth between today and then, and the stories slowly but surely intersect. There were some difficult parts to read that required me to take a deep breath first or put the book down for a moment before continuing, but it was a great book and very discussion-worthy. I also enjoy books that introduce me to periods of time or events that are new to me, which the Tulsa race riot certainly was.

Eva’s Eye by Karin Fossum (translated from Norwegian by James Anderson)

In honor of Women in Translation Month, I chose to read a book in translation by Norway’s “Queen of Crime.” I read the first in the Inspector Sejer Mysteries series. I liked Inspector Sejer, a middle-aged and mild-mannered detective. The crime being investigated was interesting. But I wasn’t a fan of the style of writing. I wonder if something got lost in translation or maybe it was because it was a British translation. Also, I didn’t really like Eva, the woman of interest in the story. But, I am not giving up on Fossum. I will certainly read another in the series, probably book #5, The Indian Bride translated by Charlotte Barslund, which received Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007.

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

This was my “book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able” for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge “Reading for Fun.” It certainly kept me turning the pages. I was eager to find out the truth behind the story of the girl who was kidnapped from her bedroom and the story of the girl who returns eights years later appearing to be that kidnapped girl. It’s a book with multiple storylines, in this case the different identities of the girl who shows up at different points in time, and I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of it all, maybe because it was suspenseful and I was reading too fast. Overall, though, an interesting read. I can’t say fun or entertaining, though, due to the trauma the kidnapped girl suffered.

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

I picked this book up on the fly while vacationing in Hawaii. I was between books and thought it would be fun to read one that took place where I was. I became quickly engrossed in the story and was thrilled with my pick. It’s the story of a Korean picture bride who came to Hawaii in 1914 hoping for a better life. It turned out not to be what she was expecting at all, but she was strong, determined, and resilient and made a life for herself. It was a fascinating immigrant story about a time and place I was not familiar. I loved learning about the history of the area I was visiting, and when people and places were mentioned in the book, I had some familiarity since I had been there.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

I wasn’t a great fan on Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, but I had heard this book was liked by people who hadn’t liked the first one, so I gave it a try. Yes, it was better, but it didn’t blow me away. I felt there were too many characters and storylines to keep track of. Now that the book is over and a couple of months have passed, I can’t even remember clearly what the main plot line and resolution were.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This was my “book about books and reading” for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge “Reading for Fun.” It’s another tale of what happens when unexpected people come into your life and make an impact, like in A Man Called Ove, and it also happens to be about a grumpy man with a sad backstory, just like Ove. But this one is about books and a bookstore as well which make it very different. It was a sweet story.

 

Currently reading and next on my list…

Since Women in Translation Month is still going on until the end of August, I’m reading Ayse Kulin’s Last Train to Istanbul, translated from Turkish by John W. Baker, which has been patiently waiting on my kindle for a few months now. I am also slowly but surely making my way through Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist: Essays for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge “Reading for Growth.” The next read for my local book club is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee which I’m really looking forward to after reading Honolulu about Korea’s picture brides of the 1910s. My Scandinavian Book Group resumes in October, and our first read is Echoes from the Dead, a crime novel by Johan Theorin translated from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. I’ve got a great variety of books ahead of me, don’t you think?

Have you joined the Women in Translation reading event this month? Consider adding a Norwegian woman in translation to your reading list. Check out my post Norwegian Women in Translation for WITmonth for ideas.

What have you been reading lately?

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Norwegian Women in Translation for WITmonth

I’m always so surprised when I hear about something which I feel I should have known about before but didn’t. That happened recently with Women in Translation Month (WITmonth), an annual month-long reading event dedicated to promoting women writers from around the world who write in languages other than English. It takes place every August. This is right in my wheelhouse – reading, books in translation, women – how could I miss it?

WITmonth has given me incentive to dig a little deeper to find Norwegian female authors whom I may not have been aware of it. A great source of information was lists of winners of various Norwegian and Scandinavian literary awards (see end of post for list of awards). My list of Norwegian female authors is by no means an exhaustive list. In my digging, I found that many Norwegian female authors’ works in translation are not available in English (but readily available in many other languages!) or no longer in print in English.

Usually, I read my Norwegian books in Norwegian, but occasionally I make an exception. For example, sometimes the cost of getting a book in Norwegian instead of English is not warranted. Other times, if the book is written in nynorsk (New Norwegian) instead of Bokmål (Book Language), I will read it in English instead since I’m not as comfortable with nynorsk. Now, I have another reason, to support Norwegian female authors in translation and their translators.

Many of these authors I’ve already heard about, some I’ve already read, others were already on my TBR list, many were new to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these authors.

    

Andersen, Merete Morken

Andersen is a contemporary Norwegian writer. Her novel Hav av tid, a psychological drama about a long-divorced couple who reunite after a family tragedy, received the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature 2002. In 2004, it was published in English as Oceans of Time translated by Barbara J. Haveland.

Drangsholt, J.S.

Drangsholt has the unique distinction of the being the first Norwegian author for whom the world rights to a book were bought by Amazon. The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter translated by Tara F. Chace was released in January 2017. The second book in the series, Winter in Wonderland also translated by Tara F. Chace, is set to be released February 1, 2018. Drangsholt writes about the neurotic and quirky academic and mother-of-three Ingrid Winter. Interesting note: The movie rights to the first book were obtained by a Norwegian comedian and actress before the book was even published.

Fossum, Karin

Fossum is considered the “Norwegian Queen of Crime.” She is best known for her Inspector Sejer Mysteries, a 12-book series about Detective Konrad Sejer, a middle-aged, mild-mannered, and likeable detective. The first book was published in 1995 in Norway, but English readers weren’t introduced to the detective until 2002. Fossum has received many respected Scandinavian awards for her books over the years, and book #5, The Indian Bride translated by Charlotte Barslund, received Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007. The latest in the series, Hell Fire translated by Kari Dickson, will be released in paperback August 15, 2017.

    

Hjorth, Vigdis

Hjorth has received numerous prestigious Norwegian literary awards and been translated to many other languages, but her novel A House in Norway (Et norsk hus, 2015) translated by Charlotte Barslund is so far the only one released in English (2017). It’s about “a woman’s struggle to reconcile the desire to be tolerant and altruistic with the imperative need for creative and personal space.” When a divorced textile artist rents out an apartment in her house to a Polish family, “her unconscious assumptions and her self-image as a good feminist and an open-minded liberal are challenged.”

Holt, Anne

Holt is one of the most successful crime novelists in Norway. She is best known for her Hanne Wilhelmsen series featuring a lesbian police officer. The first book in the series, Blind Goddess, was published in 1993 in Norway, but English readers weren’t introduced to Holt until 2011 with the English release of book #8 called 1222, translated by Marlaine Delargy. It was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Kaurin, Marianne

Kaurin is an up-and-coming young adult writer. Recently released Almost Autumn translated by Rosie Hedger (2017) is Kaurin’s award-winning debut novel. It’s an historical fiction novel about World War II in Norway, in particular the German occupation of Oslo, and how Jewish families were affected and the secret and risky work of the Resistance.

    

Lindstrøm, Merethe

Lindstrøm is an award-winning contemporary author who has published novels, collections of short stories, and a children’s book. Her novel Dager i stillhetens historie (2011) received the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature in 2011 as well as the Nordic Council Literature Prize the following year. In 2013, it was published in English as Days in the History of Silence translated by Anne Bruce.

Lunde, Maja

Lunde is a screenwriter and author of books for children, young adults, and adults. Her novel for adults, The History of Bees translated by Diane Oatley, will be released in English on August 22, 2017. It’s a look at the importance of bees in the past, present, and future from the perspective of a family in each of those time periods, and over time their stories intersect. It received the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2015. I highly recommend it. It is the first book in a planned series called The Climate Quartet, in which each book will be a stand-alone novel emphasizing a specific climate related theme: insects, water, animals, and finally seeds.

Ragde, Anne B.

Ragde is an award-winning author with more than 30 books published in Norway, many of them also published abroad in translation. Berlin Poplars translated by James Anderson (2009) is the only one available to English readers. Berlin Poplars, published in Norway in 2004, takes place in Northern Norway during Christmas time and is about the reunion of three grown sons and their sick mother back on the family farm after many years apart. It is the first in a popular trilogy that went on to be adapted for the screen as a television series.

    

Ravatn, Agnes

Ravatn is a contemporary Norwegian novelist and journalist. The Bird Tribunal, a psychological thriller translated by Rosie Hedger, is her first work published in English (2017). The book was chosen by a panel of listeners of Norway’s national radio channel NRK P2 as the best new novel of 2013 when it was published in Norway.

Seierstad, Åsne

Seierstad is an award-winning freelance journalist and writer of many popular non-fiction books translated worldwide. The Bookseller of Kabul translated by Ingrid Christophersen won the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize in 2002. One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway – and Its Aftermath translated by Sarah Death explores the July 22, 2011, attacks by Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utøya, when he killed a total of 77 people, most of them teenagers. One of Us was one of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of 2015 and a NYT Bestseller. Seierstad’s most recent work, Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad, translated by Seán Kinsella (release date Feb 13, 2018), tells the story of two daughters of Somali immigrants in Norway who suddenly disappear and are discovered to be en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. It received Norway’s prestigious Brage Prize for Non-Fiction in 2016.

Skomsvold, Kjersti Annesdatter

Skomsvold is a contemporary Norwegian writer of novels, poetry, essays, and short stories. Her first novel, The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am translated by Kerri A. Pierce (2011), received the Tarjei Vesaas’ Debut Prize in 2009. Her second novel, Monsterhuman translated by Becky L. Crook, is an auto-fictional work, “a funny, sad, astoundingly energetic novel about suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, the power of writing, and twenty-first-century literary life” set to release September 29, 2017.

      

Ullmann, Linn

Ullmann is an award-winning Norwegian author, journalist, and prominent literary critic. All of her novels have been translated into English. Her fourth novel, A Blessed Child, published in Norway in 2005, was shortlisted for the prestigious Norwegian literary Brage Prize that year. In 2008, A Blessed Child translated by Sarah Death, was named Best Translated Novel in the British newspaper The Independent, and in 2009, the novel was longlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in the UK.

Undset, Sigrid

Undset (1882-1949) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928 for her trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter about a woman living in Norway during the 14th century. The first volume The Wreath was originally published in 1920, followed by The Wife in 1921, and The Cross in 1922. The series was first translated in the 1920s by Charles Archer. Award-winning translator Tiina Nunnally provided a new translation of the series starting in 1997. According to the publisher, Nunnally “retains the natural dialog and lyrical flow of the original Norwegian, with its echoes of Old Norse legends, while deftly avoiding the stilted language and false archaisms of Archer’s translation. In addition, she restores key passages left out of that edition.”

Wassmo, Herbjørg

Wassmo is an award-winning author with many published works in Norway. Dina’s Book, translated by Nadia Christensen, is the only one currently available to English readers. From the publisher: “Set in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century, Dina’s Book presents a beautiful, eccentric, and tempestuous heroine who carries a terrible burden: at the age of five she accidentally caused her mother’s death. Blamed by her father and banished to a farm, she grows up untamed and untaught.”

More Norwegian Female Authors with Works in Translation:

Bildøen, Brit: Seven Days in August translated by Becky L. Crook (2016)

Dahle, Gro: A Hundred Thousand Hours/Hundre Tusen Timer translated by Rebecca Wadlinger (2013) – an English and Norwegian bilingual edition of a book-length poem

Gabrielsen, Gøhril: The Looking-Glass Sisters translated by John Irons (2015)

Lauveng, Arnhild: A Road Back from Schizophrenia: A Memoir translated by Stine Skarpnes Østtveit (2012)

Parr, Maria: Middle grade novels Adventures with Waffles translated by Guy Puzey (2013) and Astrid the Unstoppable to be released November 2, 2017 (won prestigious Norwegian Brage Prize for Children’s Literature when published in Norway in 2009 as Tonje Glimmerdal)

Røssland, Ingelin: Young adult novel Minus Me translated by Deborah Dawkin (2015)

Sandel, Cora (1880-1974): Alberta and Jacob translated by Elizabeth Rokkan (2003) – first in Alberta trilogy

Skram, Amalie (1846-1905): Constance Ring and Lucie

Stien, Laila: Antiphony translated by John Weinstock (2007) – a novel looking at Sami culture

Uri, Helene: Honey Tongues translated by Kari Dickson (2008)

Ørstavik, Hanne: The Blue Room translated by Deborah Dawkin (2014), Love translated by Martin Aitken (2018)

Øyehaug, Gunnhild: Knots: Stories translated by Kari Dickson (2017)

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