Posts in Reading

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the readalong of Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetzky March, kindly organised by Caroline and Lizzy. For Part 1, click here. To avoid spoilers, don’t read anything at all. But who cares about spoilers, right? Are there characters you like or dislike particularly so far? Roth has a great knack for making characters feel real, without making them particularly likeable or dislikeable. I feel sorry for most of them, locked as they are into quite horrible lives and seemingly unable to escape from them. I find myself drawn to the… Read More

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 1

This month, I am reading Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetzky March in the excellent company of fellow book bloggers Caroline and Lizzy. The readalong takes place over three weeks, Roth having helpfully split his novel into three parts just for this purpose. This week, I read Part 1, and I am responding to questions that Caroline and Lizzy came up with as prompts. Welcome to the #germanlitmonth spring readalong of Joseph Roth’s most famous novel, The Radetzky March.  What enticed you to readalong with us? A strange sequence of coincidences…. Read More

Refined and Elegant Things: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

The eggs of the spot-billed duck. Shaved ice with a sweet syrup, served in a shiny new metal bowl. A crystal rosary. These are just a few of the items on a list of “refined and elegant things” in the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Then there are “things that make your heart beat fast”, “things that make you nostalgic”, and, on the other hand, “infuriating things” or “things later regretted”. And, beyond the lists, there are anecdotes, jokes, improvisational poetry competitions, and some quite beautiful observation of life. One… Read More

February Reading Roundup

After a slow January, I hit my reading stride in February. We stayed in Croatia all month, with just a quick side trip to Slovenia, so I had plenty of time to read and catch up with writing too. Here’s a quick roundup of the books I read last month. Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval We’ve all met people who don’t have good boundaries, haven’t we? But in this disturbing Norwegian novel set in England, this is quite a literal problem, as a young biology student finds herself melding with… Read More

January Reading Roundup

Better late than never! Here’s my reading roundup for January. It was a month in which I did a lot of travelling, driving from Greece to Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and now Croatia (via Romania again and a brief stop in Serbia). So I didn’t spend as much time reading and blogging as I wanted to, but I still managed to read some excellent books to start 2019. The Great Passage by Shion Miura This was my contribution to the Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza (which you can still… Read More

The Power of Words: The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage by Shion Miura is a novel about a group of editors compiling a dictionary. If you’re looking for a fast-moving plot with plenty of action, this is not the book for you. But if you love language and are willing to be patient, it holds plenty of rewards. When I say this is a novel about compiling a dictionary, I don’t mean that the dictionary compiling is a loose frame for a more exciting story. I mean that it really is about the details of the dictionary,… Read More

Stories of Racism and Retail Hell: Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Race and capitalism in America should be fertile ground for literary fiction. This year’s Black Friday shopping frenzy brought the usual bout of stabbings and shootings to add to the overall death count, not to mention the looming environmental collapse that such consumerism feeds. And the list of things you can’t do while black without having the police called or a gun pulled on you seems to expand by the day, from working out to moving into an apartment to buying Mentos. Yet Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah startled me by the… Read More

December Reading Roundup

December has been a good reading month for me. It’s been a good month in general, in fact, and I wanted to write a longer post about some of the things I’ve done and seen, but I don’t know if I’ll have time, so for now here are the reading highlights. (Side note: I often give extra little titbits in my monthly email newsletter, so subscribe using the quick form in the sidebar if you’re interested.) Hounded: Stories From the American Road by Alan Emmins In this collection of long-form… Read More