Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mysteries: Noir, Historical and Detective
. . . reviewed by Julie

South of Hell by P.J. Parrish
This is my second Louis Kincaid novel and I enjoyed this one as much as the first. I love the way the author has parallel plots going on with different characters at the same time. This was a quick, easy and fun read.
P.J. Parrish's Website

The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes
This took me awhile to get into it but once I did I was hooked. The plot was exciting and that is what kept you going. Ed Loy is an interesting detective but I didn't really learn much about him. The Irish Catholic elements I found very interesting.

The Barbarous Coast by Ross MacDonald
I love Ross MacDonald—he's a classic noir writer in the style of Raymond Chandler. He is great at providing a sense of moral decay in L.A. and always has a misguided, troubled daughter to rescue.

A Paragon of Virtue by Christian Von Ditfurth
As members of a wealthy real estate family in Hamburg, Germany are murdered, the police are led to believe that the motive can be found in the past—during the Nazi regime. Stachelmann, a history professor who specializes in Nazi Germany becomes involved and through both research and footwork solves the crime. This is the first of a series and was absolutely fascinating.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Expand Your World, Read International Literature . . . from Suzanne


A friend came into the library recently and asked me for book recommendations. She’s a former language teacher, has traveled widely, and particularly likes books with foreign settings. The first books that came to mind were some of my stand-by favorites. These included:
  • The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble, set in England, plus in the course of the novel the narrator takes some friends on a trip to Greece, I believe.
  • Heat Wave by Penelope Lively, set in the English countryside.
  • Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, set in Norway.
  • The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga, set in Florence, Italy.
Since then I’ve been making a list of other books to recommend to her and other readers who like to travel through books, and specifically about books translated from other languages. Two of them are:
  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spain, Barcelona specifically)
  • Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

Thoughts on International Literature

The most dramatic change in fiction publishing over the past 5 years, in my opinion, is the proliferation of contemporary fiction titles from abroad that are translated into English. I’ve read in various journals, including Publisher’s Weekly, about the challenges faced by foreign publishers because of the expense of translations, with no assurance that books that have been best sellers in Europe are going to make it big in the U.S. market. In fact, two books whose U.S. publication I anticipated for a long time, both blockbusters in Europe, have not had huge sales here. These are:
  • Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones de Sierra (Spain). This book is an 811-page saga of a Catalan family whose story is told in the context of the building of the Church of Santa Maria in Barcelona over an 80-year period. It’s long and rambling, and not as melodramatic as Ken Follett’s medieval soap operas, but better, if you have the patience.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I read this book last month, and it immediately became one of my favorite novels of the year. Rather than write a review, I’ll put you on to Michael Dirda’s Review, which sums up the loveliness of this book.
For all of you who, like me, love to “expand your borders” through books I have some recommendations and some websites. You’ll notice that a lot of these are by French authors, and that’s because I’m an ardent Francophile.
  • Nada by Carmen Laforet (Spain)
  • The Theory of Clouds by Stephane Audeguy (France)
  • The Yacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany (Egypt)
  • The Mystery Guest by Gregoire Bouillier (France)
  • Hotel Crystal by Olivier Rolin (France)
  • The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre (France)
  • The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (Italy)

Websites with Book News and Reviews

Two excellent websites for information about literature in translation, literary prizes, essays and stories are:

Words Without Borders

Man Asian Prize

I found a great list of translated books nominated for the “Best Translated Book 2008” award from Three Percent, a resource for international literature at the University of Rochester.

Three Percent