translated fiction

All posts tagged translated fiction

Blog Tour – The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (translated by Don Bartlett)

Published March 5, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The international bestselling godfather of Nordic Noir takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in a stunning standalone thriller…

‘A masterclass in plotting, atmosphere and character that finely balances shocking twists’ The Times

In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.
And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…
Written with Dahl’s trademark characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in a exceptional, shocking thriller.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for inviting me onto this blog tour and for providing a complimentary digital copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, I’m not familiar with the author’s work but I was instantly intrigued by the promise of a gritty thriller set within the period around the Second World War. It’s one of my favourite periods of history to read about and I’m always on the hunt for an author who can bring something fresh and unique to an era that we often see explored in multiple works of fiction. I’ve also found a new hunger as a reader for reading more translated novels and for me, Don Bartlett’s words felt seamless and effortless to read which is always a pleasure to experience.

Kjell Ola Dahl, author of the standalone thriller, The Courier.

I found The Courier to be quite a fascinating reading experience and it was certainly one that has left me still mulling over it a few days now after finishing. Set across multiple timelines from the early 1940’s to the 1960’s and then contemporary times we follow a number of different characters but primarily Ester, who delivered illegal newspapers during the war, making a stand against the harsh Nazi regime. However, the focus of this novel is ultimately directed towards the suspicious death of one of Ester’s friends Åse. The narrative follows Ester just prior to Åse’s death and additionally, Åse’s husband, Gerhard who becomes the primary suspect in his wife’s murder but until now, has been presumed to have died in a fire. Piece by piece and across the years, the truth about what happened is gradually revealed and the unravelling of a multitude of secrets has the potential to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Oslo, Norway 1940-1945

Image from: http://www.norvege-fr.com/norvege_photos.php?id_photo=36645642345&mots=winter+oslo&couleurs=all&sort=&page=1

In general, I have quite mixed feelings about this novel. It’s definitely what you would call a slow-burner and whilst it’s true that I usually gobble up stories that take their time to unfold, there were points where I couldn’t quite gel with the pacing. That is to say, at times I couldn’t get enough of where the author was taking the plot and then there were other times where it didn’t work as well, personally speaking. Kjell Ola Dahl has an undeniable talent and a genuine flair for the dramatic and there were moments where I was “thrilled,” on the edge of my seat and frantically turning the pages.

I honestly believe fans of espionage novels will devour this story, particularly the political relationships between the characters and the slow, considered reveals that have the reader questioning everything. Perhaps it wasn’t a stand out read for me because I’ve struggled so deeply with espionage in the past? Although this particular novel was not primarily espionage I hasten to add, it did read at points for me like an espionage thriller. In the hands of a different reader I’m certain this would be a hugely rewarding reading experience and I think the author has a clear, individual writing style all of his own that has already gained him a legion of loyal fans. I would certainly urge anyone with a love of history, intricate plotting and strong female leads to give it a try!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in
Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the
most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological
thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the
Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and
Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14
countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Find Kjell Ola Dahl on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/605240.Kjell_Ola_Dahl

or on his website at: http://www.salomonssonagency.se/php/author.php?lang=en&authid=17

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Courier will be published on 21st March 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Courier on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42957863-the-courier

Link to The Courier on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Courier-Kjell-Ola-Dahl-ebook/dp/B07KGLHC5X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1551731622&sr=8-1&keywords=the+courier

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Lullaby – Leïla Slimani, Sam Taylor (Translator)

Published October 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for loaning me her copy of Lullaby (also published as The Perfect Nanny) to read after she had finished it. This is another one of those books that has been everywhere with mostly rave reviews and when it was picked for The Richard And Judy Late Summer Reads book club here in the UK, I knew I had to finally give it a shot. Lullaby is a work of translated fiction which is also another bonus for me as I’m trying to expand my horizons and read more translated work, and was originally published as Chanson douce in French back in 2016, winning the Prix Goncourt. By the time I finished this book, I was kicking myself for not having picked it up sooner. This was a remarkably short but powerful piece of fiction at just over 250 pages and I fair flew through the pages in less than 24 hours.

 Leïla Slimani, author of Lullaby.

It’s no spoiler to say that Lullaby has one of the most astounding opening lines I’ve ever come across in a novel:

“The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”

Already, the reader is fully aware that this story is NOT going to end well but the sheer might of this opening line propels us into a narrative that explores exactly how our characters get to this life-altering point and what could have potentially precipitated such a heinous act. It’s the story of an ambitious couple, Myriam and Paul and the nanny that they employ, Louise to look after their two young children whilst they spend more and more of their waking hours at work, building a life for their family. It follows a woman whom when we first meet her is already teetering on the brink of a precipice emotionally and financially and how events in her past and present collide together to push her off the edge of that cliff into complete turmoil. Could these events have been predicted? If the couple had spent more time with their children and not left so much of the responsibility and parenting to Louise would things have been different? Possibly, possibly not. This is a fascinating insight into a troubled individual with devastating and heart-breaking consequences for all parties concerned.

The Perfect Nanny? Julie Andrews as the inimitable Mary Poppins.

As I mentioned before, this is an incredibly short, engrossing novel that it took me no time at all to whizz through and I was completely absorbed every minute I spent reading it. I’m sure that staggering first line must chase away any residual hesitancy you might have as well? It certainly did for me. That was an incredibly savvy ploy by the author/editor to pull a reader into a novel and I can only applaud them for it, it worked a treat and before I experienced the story for myself, it was all anybody could talk about initially online. Lullaby feels quite literary in its execution so don’t be expecting major plot twists and turns, that’s not what this novel is all about. It does everything it needs to do quietly, intelligently and thoughtfully and I can certainly see why it’s been praised so highly. As I reached the “final bow” of the narrative, I have to admit to a slight tinge of disappointment at the ending at first. However, the longer I’ve sat thinking about it, the more I understand that it was pretty perfect the way it was and certainly fits the entire tone of the novel. I really don’t believe this needs any bells, whistles or exciting, unexpected moments – the story runs on a lot deeper level that that and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 4):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston)

Published October 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village—the “hottest beach in Finland.” The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams, and people struggling at turning points in their lives—chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater for getting in touch and inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a digital copy of this darkly humorous novel in exchange for an honest review. Palm Beach, Finland is my first experience with Antti Tuomainen’s writing, although I do have one of his other novels, The Man Who Died which I included as part of my post, 18 Books I’d Like To Read In 2018, which I promise to try and get round to very soon! However, now that I’ve read Palm Beach, Finland, it only makes me more determined to read something else by Tuomainen as I found his work to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience, full of atmosphere, quirky offbeat humour and a very individual writing style.

Antti Tuomainen, author of Palm Beach, Finland.

On first impressions, this novel is about an undercover detective, Jan Nyman who is investigating a series of strange events near a new beach resort in Finland that began with a suspected burglary gone wrong and ended with a murder. Nyman is trying to figure out whether the death was accidental or pre-meditated, who carried out the crime and for what reason, however things become rather convoluted when he gets to the resort and meets the people who could be potentially involved. There’s a number of characters to get to grips with here, all with their own motives for murder, including the woman whose house the death occurred in, Olivia Koski, who is in a desperate situation financially and wants nothing more than to make the house she lives in habitable and safe. However, there are far more personalities on the outskirts of this small, unassuming town to discover and the reader soon realises that nothing in this novel can be assumed or predicted.

An example of one of the beaches in Finland, Yyteri near Pori.

Before I started reading Palm Beach, Finland, I gave the synopsis a quick glance but tried to go into the novel knowing as little as possible about it. I don’t normally do this as I like to have a snapshot idea in my mind about the content of a book before I dive in but for some reason, this new tactic of mine worked really well for this particular work. I was delighted to find an intriguing mystery, some fascinating characters and a sense of humour I could really get on board with. The plot was intricate with multiple twists and turns but luckily, it felt believable throughout and it did make me constantly want to turn the pages and find out what was going on.

As I alluded to in a previous paragraph, I don’t think you can predict the actions of any of our characters in this story and to be honest, that was probably one of my favourite things about it. They all felt quite whimsical and other-worldly in a way and I was constantly surprised by the way in which each individual became personally embroiled in the plot. It began as a relatively simple criminal act, blew up into something much more dangerous and then dragged each of our characters into its clutches one by one as it became increasingly messy and out of hand. I did find myself wishing that we got to know each character a lot better on a much deeper level as it seemed as if the novel relied quite heavily on the complexities of the plot combined with the humorous undertone but generally speaking, this didn’t affect my enjoyment level in the slightest.

I’m reading much more translated fiction this year and completely loving this experience. The translator for Palm Beach, Finland, David Hackston did a brilliant job of bringing this novel to an English speaking audience whilst still retaining the author’s unique idiosyncrasies and comic timing. I definitely want to be reading more from Antti Tuomainen!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary
debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was
published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the
Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key
Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of
Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style,
Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his
poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller,
shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.

Find Antti on his Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5142432.Antti_Tuomainen

on his website at: http://anttituomainen.com/

or on Twitter at: @antti_tuomainen

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Palm Beach, Finland will be published in October 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Palm Beach, Finland on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42086762-palm-beach-finland

Link to Palm Beach, Finland on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Palm-Beach-Finland-Antti-Tuomainen-ebook/dp/B07DFQ2DVK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1538594419&sr=8-1&keywords=palm+beach+finland