Monthly Archives: August 2014

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (tr. by Stephen Snyder)

This review was originally published as a guest post on The Writes of Women blog (25th March 2014) and Naomi has kindly granted her permission for me to republish it here – I’ve held it till August to tie in with Biblibio’s Women in Translation month.

When the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP) longlist was announced in early March I was thrilled to see Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge among the contenders. Ogawa was one of two female writers from Japan to make the shortlist this year. The other was Hiromi Kawakami for her novel Strange Weather in Tokyo which both Naomi and I have already reviewed for January in Japan, an annual focus on Japanese literature hosted by blogger (and fellow IFFP shadow-judge) Tony Malone – my review of Strange Weather; Naomi’s review.


Revenge is a stunning yet unsettling collection of eleven interlinked short stories; while each individual tale works as a short story in its own right, they are elegantly connected by a set of recurring images and signifiers threaded through the stories. Characters flow from one story to the next; we revisit specific locations and scenes from earlier tales, only to see things from a different viewpoint as our perspective has changed. It’s all very cleverly constructed, and part of the satisfaction in reading Revenge comes from spotting the connections between characters, scenes and narrative fragments throughout the collection.

To give you an example, the collection opens with Afternoon at the Bakery’ in which a woman visits a bakery to buy two strawberry shortcakes for her son’s birthday. At first the bakery appears to be empty, but then the woman notices the patissier standing in the kitchen sobbing gently while talking to someone on the telephone. This story ends before we learn more about the patissier, but she reappears in the next tale (‘Fruit Juice’) where we discover the source of her sadness.  And strawberry shortcakes crop up again in a later story (Welcome to the Museum of Torture’) when another girl buys cakes (from the same bakery, as it happens) for a dinner with her boyfriend.

The stories in Revenge explore some pretty dark themes, and in this respect there’s a clear connection to Ogawa’s earlier collection The Diving Pool, which Naomi and I both read earlier this year (see here for Naomi’s review). In Revenge, we meet characters who seem isolated or detached from society in some way. Many live alone, their lives infused with sadness and loneliness:

She was an inconspicuous girl, perhaps the quietest in our grade. She almost never spoke in class, and when asked to stand up and translate a passage from English, or to solve a math problem on the board, she did it as discreetly as possible, without fuss. She had no friends to speak of, belonged to no clubs, and she ate her lunch in a corner by herself. (pg 15, Harvill Secker)

Ogawa often describes characters in a way that suggests a certain fragile quality to their persona. They seem delicate, yet easily shattered or damaged:

The woman fell silent again and sat as still as a doll. In fact, everything about her was doll-like: her tiny figure, her porcelain skin, her bobbed hair. Her wrists and fingers and ankles were so delicate they seemed as though they would break if you touched them. (pg 132)

Desertion or rejection is another theme. In some stories, Ogawa uses a forgotten building (like the abandoned Post Office we visit in ‘Fruit Juice’) to illustrate this feature; in others the characters themselves are the rejected ones:

As I walked, I recalled, one by one, all the times I had ever been rejected. This process had become something of a ritual with me since my husband’s affair had started. I would unearth memories, beginning in childhood, of places and occasions when someone had hurt me. In that way, I believed, I would see that my pain was due not only to my husband but to the cruelty of countless others besides. I found it somehow comforting to think that his coldness was in no way special or unique. (pg 124)

This all leads to some very disturbing behaviour indeed. Some of the stories explore the dark, sinister side of desire and how rejection or jealousy can precipitate acts of revenge.  There are some chilling scenes in this book, and one or two of them appear almost out of nowhere which makes them all the more disquieting…

And there are some very macabre images, too. I’ve already mentioned the Museum of Torture and in another story, Old Mrs. J (one of my favourites from the collection), Mrs. J unearths from her garden a carrot in the shape of a hand:

It was plump, like a baby’s hand, and perfectly formed: five fingers, with a thick thumb and long finger in the middle. The greens looked like a scrap of lace decorating the wrist. (pg 31)

Ogawa uses some of these images to explore the theme of decay and death. We see dilapidated buildings that have faded over the years; tomatoes squashed and splattered on a road following an accident involving a lorry; a strawberry shortcake is left to rot and harden, growing mould in the process:

‘It was like breathing in death’ (pg. 6)

And I wonder if some of the motifs running through these stories are coded references to bodily secretions. After all, as a character in Lab Coats’ remarks ‘It’s amazing all the stuff that can ooze out of a body’ (pg. 56)

Revenge is an excellent collection of short stories, each one adding new layers and connections to the overall narrative. On the surface Ogawa’s prose is clean and precise, beautifully captured by Stephen Snyder’s crystalline translation. And yet there’s an unsettling chill rippling through her work, an undercurrent of darkness if you like, which I find strangely alluring. Some of her stories have the feel of modern-day fairy tales, almost ethereal in their tone. Ogawa has a real talent for exploring some of the disquieting parts of the human psyche and how chilling acts of darkness can lurk just beneath the surface of the everyday. In this respect, her work reminds me a little of some of David Lynch’s films, especially Blue Velvet which opens with its lead character making a gruesome discovery in a field. And others, including one of the judges for this year’s IFFP, have likened Revenge to some of Angela Carter’s stories. High praise indeed.

Several other bloggers have reviewed Revenge including fellow IFFP-shadow participants: Stu at Winstonsdad’s, Tony Malone at Tony’s Reading List, David Hebblethwaite, Dolce Bellezza and Tony Messenger.

Revenge is published in the UK by Harvill Secker. Source: personal copy.

A-Z Index of Book Reviews (listed by author)

Books Reviewed:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pitch Dark by Renata Adler

Speedboat by Renata Adler

Ghosts by César Aira (tr. by Chris Andrews)

Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler

Topkapi – The Light of Day by Eric Ambler

You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames

The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon (tr. by the author)

Don’t Look at Me Like That by Diana Athill

Eve’s Hollywood by Eve Babitz 

Slow Days, Fast Company by Eve Babitz 

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

The Incident Report by Martha Baillie

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker 

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

They Were Counted by Miklós Bánffy (tr. by Patrick Thursfield and Katalin Bánffy-Jelen) + an additional post on the politics

Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash

A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray by Dominique Barbéris (tr. by John Cullen)

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani (tr. by William Weaver)

Fair Stood the Wind for France by H. E. Bates

Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum (tr. by Basil Creighton)

The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán (tr. by Paul O’Prey & Lucia Graves)

Rendezvous in Venice by Philippe Beaussant (tr. by Paul Buck and Catherine Petit)

A Legacy by Sybille Bedford

The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell 

Who Among Us? by Mario Benedetti (tr. by Nick Caistor)

Insomnia by Marina Benjamin

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin 

Across the Common by Elizabeth Berridge 

Sing Me Who You Are by Elizabeth Berridge 

The Story of Stanley Brent by Elizabeth Berridge

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson (tr. by Molly Ringwald)

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares (tr. by Ruth L.C. Simms)

Where There’s Love, There’s Hate by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo (tr. by Suzanne Jill Levine and Jessica Ernst Powell)

The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (tr. by Jonathan Wright)

Drowned by Therese Bohman (tr. by Marlaine Delargy)

Vertigo by Boileau-Narcejac (tr. by Geoffrey Sainsbury)

Wave Me Goodbye, Stories of the Second World War,  part 1 – edited by Anne Boston; stories by Rose Macaulay, Mollie Panter-Downes, Jean Rhys, Margery Sharp, Elizabeth Taylor

Wave Me Goodbye, Stories of the Second World War,  part 2  – edited by Anne Boston; stories by Beryl Bainbridge, Elizabeth Bowen, Olivia Manning, Barbara Pym, Sylvia Townsend Warner

A Nail, A Rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe 

La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe (tr. by Faith Evans)

Marie by Madeleine Bourdouxhe (tr. by Faith Evans)

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

The Springs of Affection by Maeve Brennan

The Visitor by Maeve Brennan

A Misalliance by Anita Brookner 

A Start in Life by Anita Brookner

Family & Friends by Anita Brookner

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

Look at Me by Anita Brookner

Providence by Anita Brookner

Flesh by Brigid Brophy

The King of a Rainy Country by Brigid Brophy

The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder 

Death in White Pyjamas and Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym by Paula ByrnePart 1 and Part 2

Liveforever by Andrés Caicedo (tr. by Frank Wynne)

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

The Complete Stories by Truman Capote

A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J. L. Carr

The Harpole Report by J. L. Carr

The Lost Gallows by John Dickson Carr

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

The High Window by Raymond Chandler

The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze

In the Twilight by Anton Chekhov (tr. by Hugh Aplin)

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

Parfums by Philippe Claudel (tr. by Euan Cameron)

Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe

What a Carve Up! / The Winshaw Legacy by Jonathan Coe

The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate

Chéri by Colette (tr. by Roger Senhouse)

Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin

Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin 

Mr Fox by Barbara Comyns

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

The Skin Chairs by Barbara Comyns

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns 

Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop-Phane (tr. by Ros Schwartz)

Academy Street by Mary Costello

The River Capture by Mary Costello

The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan

Second Place by Rachel Cusk

Bird in a Cage by Frédéric Dard (tr. by David Bellos)

The Executioner Weeps by Frédéric Dard (tr. by David Coward)

West by Carys Davies 

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield 

Nothing Holds Back the Night by Delphine de Vigan (tr. by George Miller)

Les Belles Amours by Louise de Vilmorin (tr. by Francis Wyndham)

Madame de ___ by Louise de Vilmorin (tr. by Duff Cooper)

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Run River by Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

The White Album by Joan Didion 

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion 

The Copenhagen Trilogy – Childhood, Youth and Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen (tr, Tiina Nunnally, Michael Favela Goldman)

The Breaking Point by Daphne du Maurier 

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

The Inspector Barlach Mysteries by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (tr. by Joel Agee)

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin (tr. by Aneesa Abbas Higgins)

Actress by Anne Enright 

The Years by Annie Ernaux (tr. by Alison L. Strayer)

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (tr. by Susan Bernofsky)

Tea is so Intoxicating by Mary Essex

The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre (tr. by Jordan Stump)

Twelve Nights by Urs Faes (tr. by Jamie Lee Searle

Nagasaki by Éric Faye (tr. by Emily Boyce)

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (tr. by Ann Goldstein)

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (tr. by Ann Goldstein)

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (tr. by Ann Goldstein)

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (tr. by Ann Goldstein)

How to Cook a Wolf by M. F. K. Fisher

At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald 

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald

Innocence by Penelope Fitzgerald

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald 

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Means of Escape by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

The Widow’s Children by Paula Fox

Things Look Different in the Light by Medardo Fraile (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

Back to Back by Julia Franck (tr. by Anthea Bell)

House of Glass by Hadley Freeman

Lost Cat by Mary Gaitskill 

Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano (tr. by Mark Fried)

The Cost of Living by Mavis Gallant

Thieves and Rascals by Mavis Gallant

Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier (tr. by Emily Boyce)

The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier (tr. by Jane Aitken)

Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary (tr. John Markham Beach)

An Evening with Claire by Gaito Gazdanov (tr. by Jodi Daynard)

The Large Door by Jonathan Gibbs

Happiness, As Such by Natalia Ginzburg (tr. by Minna Zallman Proctor)

Voices in the Evening by Natalia Ginzburg (tr. by D. M. Low)

Valentino and Sagittarius by Natalia Ginzburg (tr. by Avril Bardoni)

Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden 

All the Days and Nights by Niven Govinden

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Schlump by Hans Herbert Grimm (tr. by Jamie Bulloch)

Sudden Traveller by Sarah Hall

Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda (tr. by Adriana Hunter)

Craven House by Patrick Hamilton

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

Monday Morning by Patrick Hamilton

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison 

The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley

The Hireling by L. P. Hartley 

Benediction by Kent Haruf

The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey

Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún (tr. by Sophie Hughes)

In Love by Alfred Hayes

The End of Me by Alfred Hayes

The Girl on the Via Flaminia by Alfred Hayes

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle (tr. by Martin Aitken)

Vain Shadow by Jane Hervey

A Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith

Carol / The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith

The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith

The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith

The Very Dead of Winter by Mary Hocking 

Blitz Writing by Inez Holden

There’s No Story There by Inez Holden

Anderby Wold by Winifred Holtby

South Riding by Winifred Holtby

The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby 

Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig (tr. by Tess Lewis)

After Julius by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Odd Girl Out by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Something in Disguise by Elizabeth Jane Howard

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes

The Blackbirder by Dorothy B. Hughes 

The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

American Midnight – Tales of the Dark – edited by Laird Hunt (stories by Edith Wharton, Shirley Jackson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and more)

Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue (tr. by Michael Emmerich)

The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue (tr. by Michael Emmerich)

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood 

The Dead Lake by Hamid Ismailov (tr. by Andrew Bromfield)

Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson 

The Dig by Cynan Jones

Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata (tr. by Howard S. Hibbert)

The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabta (tr. by Edward G. Seidensticker)

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (tr. by Allison Markin Powell)

The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

After Midnight by Irmgard Keun (tr. Anthea Bell)

The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun (tr. by Kathie von Ankum)

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (tr. by Don Bartlett)

A Man in Love (My Struggle: Book 2) by Karl Ove Knausgaard (tr. by Don Bartlett)

Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything by Daniela Krien (tr. by Jamie Bulloch)

The Adventures of Sindbad by Gyula Krúdy (tr. by George Szirtes)

Nada by Carmen Laforet (tr. by Edith Grossman)

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (tr. by the author)

Funny Weather by Olivia Laing 

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing 

A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin

Jill by Philip Larkin

Quicksand by Nella Larsen

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski 

A Murder of Quality by John le Carré

Call for the Dead by John le Carré 

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann

The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

Mona Lisa by Alexander Lernet-Holenia (tr. by Ignat Avsey)

The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

Three Summers by Margartia Liberaki (tr. by Karen Van Dyck

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector (tr. by Alison Entrekin)

Heat Wave by Penelope Lively

Murder’s a Swine by Nap Lombard 

Ten by Andrej Longo (tr. by Howard Curtis)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Checkmate to Murder by E. C. R. Lorac 

Fell Murder by E. C. R. Lorac

Fire in the Thatch by E. C. R. Lorac

Two-Way Murder by E. C. R. Lorac 

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (tr. by Christina MacSweeney)

Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay

Potterism by Rose Macaulay

The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

The Drowning Pool (Lew Archer book 2) by Ross Macdonald

The Way Some People Die (Lew Archer book 3) by Ross Macdonald

The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer book 4) by Ross Macdonald 

Find a Victim (Lew Archer book 5) by Ross Macdonald 

The Barbarous Coast (Lew Archer book 6) by Ross Macdonald

The Doomsters by Ross Macdonald 

The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald 

Bitten by the Tarantula by Julian Maclaran-Ross

Of Love and Hunger by Julian Maclaren-Ross

Circles & Squares – The Lives and Art of the Hampstead Modernists by Caroline Maclean 

Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andreï Makine (tr. by Geoffrey Strachan)

Game for Five by Marco Malvaldi (tr. by Howard Curtis)

The Art of Killing Well by Marco Malvaldi (tr. by Howard Curtis)

Nada by Jean-Patrick Manchette

School for Love by Olivia Manning 

The Doves of Venus by Olivia Manning

The Great Fortune (Balkan Trilogy, book 1) by Olivia Manning – part 1

The Great Fortune (Balkan Trilogy, book 1) by Olivia Manning – part 2

The Spoilt City (Balkan Trilogy, book 2) by Olivia Manning

Friends and Heroes (Balkan Trilogy, book 3) by Olivia Manning

Escape by Dominique Manotti (tr. by Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz)

The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield

A Heart So White by Javier Marías (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

All Souls by Javier Marías (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

The Infatuations by Javier Marías (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

The Man of Feeling by Javier Marías (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marías (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

Second Sight by Adam Mars-Jones

The Island by Ana María Matute (tr. Laura Lonsdale)

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride 

Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers

Tea at Four O’Clock by Janet McNeill 

Testing the Current by William McPherson

A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar

The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli (tr. by Sam Taylor)

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Villa Triste by Patrick Modiano (tr. by John Cullen)

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

Arturo’s Island by Elsa Morante (tr. by Ann Goldstein)

Agostino by Alberto Moravia (tr. by Michael F. Moore)

Divertimento 1889 by Guido Morselli (tr. by Hugh Shankland)

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Saturday Lunch with the Brownings by Penelope Mortimer

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (tr. by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

The Offing by Benjamin Myers

The Things We Don’t Do by Andrés Neuman (tr. by N Caistor & L Garcia)

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

A Way of Life, Like Any Other by Darcy O’Brien

Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan 

Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara

Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo (tr. by Daniel Balderston)

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa (tr. by Stephen Snyder)

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (tr. by Stephen Snyder)

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (tr. by Brian FitzGibbon)

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen (tr. by Emily & Fleur Jeremiah)

Business as Usual by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford

Motherwell by Deborah Orr

Love by Hanne Ørstavik (tr. Martin Aitken)

The Blue Room by Hanne Ørstavik (tr. by Deborah Dawkin)

Evening Descends Upon the Hills by Anna Maria Ortese (tr. by Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee)

After Claude by Iris Owens 


Good Evening, Mrs Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes 

My Husband Simon by Mollie Panter-Downes 

One Fine Day by Mollie-Panter-Downes

Broken Greek by Pete Paphides

The Shadowy Third by Julia Parry 

The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese (tr. by W.J. Strachan)

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman

More Was Lost by Eleanor Perényi

Lanny by Max Porter

A Question of UpbringingA Dance to the Music of Time, book 1 by Anthony Powell

A Dance to the Music of Time, books 2-4 by Anthony Powell

A Dance to the Music of Time, books 5-9 by Anthony Powell

A Dance to the Music of Time, books 10-12 by Anthony Powell 

Civil to Strangers by Barbara Pym

Civil to Strangers – the unfinished novels and short stories by Barbara Pym 

Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym 

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym 

Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (tr. by Brian Murdoch)

The Evenings by Gerard Reve (tr. by Sam Garrett)

Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (tr. by Chris Andrews)

After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys

The Left Bank and Other Stories by Jean Rhys

Tigers Are Better-Looking by Jean Rhys

Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sábato (tr. by Margaret Sayers Peden)

The Secret in Their Eyes by Eduardo Sacheri (tr. by John Cullen)

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

A Certain Smile by Françoise Sagan  (tr. by Irene Ash)

Aimez-vous Brahms… by Françoise Sagan (tr. by Peter Wiles)

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan (tr. by Heather Lloyd) + additional thoughts on the translation

Improper Stories by Saki

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter 

Last Night by James Salter

Meeting in Positano by Golardia Sapineza (tr. Geraldine Harcourt)

Equal Danger by Leonardo Sciascia (tr. by Adrienne Foulke)

The Wine-Dark Sea by Leonardo Sciascia (tr. by Avril Bardoni)

Vienna Tales (short story anthology) – Schnitzler, Stifter, Roth, and more (tr. by Deborah Holmes)

Transit by Anna Seghers (tr. by Margo Bettauer Dembo)

The Fortnight in September by R. C. Sherriff 

Red Lights by Georges Simenon (tr. by Norman Denny)

The Krull House by Georges Simenon (tr. by Howard Curtis)

The Widow by Georges Simenon (tr. by John Petrie)

Three Bedrooms in Manhattan by Georges Simenon (tr. by Marc Romano and Lawrence G Blochman)

How to be both by Ali Smith

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

The Gate by Natsume Söseki (tr. by William F. Sibley)

Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark 

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark 

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

Symposium by Muriel Spark

The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn – part 1, some overall thoughts

The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn – part 2, the individual books

Trick by Domenico Starnone (tr. by Jhumpa Lahiri)

The Sorrow of Angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (tr. by Philip Roughton)

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Love in a Bottle by Antal Szerb (tr. by Len Rix)

A Dedicated Man by Elizabeth Taylor 

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor 

At Mrs Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor 

A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor

A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor

Hester Lilly by Elizabeth Taylor

In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor

The Blush by Elizabeth Taylor

The Sleeping Beauty by Elizabeth Taylor 

The Soul of Kindness by Elizabeth Taylor

Rasputin and Other Ironies by Teffi (tr. by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler, Rose France and Anne Marie Jackson)

Subtly Worded by Teffi (tr. by Anne Marie Jackson)

High Rising by Angela Thirkell

The Grifters by Jim Thompson 

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (1) – Nora

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín (2) – life in a small town in Ireland

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (tr. by Antonia Lloyd Jones)

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (tr. by Archibald Colquhoun)

The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (tr. by Stephen Twilley)

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Love and Summer by William Trevor

Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel by William Trevor

The Boarding-House by William Trevor

The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor

The Love Department by William Trevor 

The Old Boys by William Trevor

Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories by Anthony Trollope 

Child of Fortune by Yuko Tsushima (tr. by Geraldine Harcourt)

Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima (tr. by Geraldine Harcourt)

The Shooting Gallery by Yuko Tsushima (tr. by Geraldine Harcourt)

The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke (tr. by Jamie Bulloch)

Spring Night by Tarjei Vesaas (tr. by Elizabeth Rokkan)

Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas (tr. by Jonathan Dunne)

Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas (tr. by Anne McLean)

Father by Elizabeth von Arnim 

The Caravaners by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim 

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade

My First Wife by Jakob Wassermann (tr. by Michael Hofmann)

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

Summer by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Children by Edith Wharton

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton 

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The New York Stories of Edith Wharton

Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

The Priory by Dorothy Whipple

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

A Good School by Richard Yates

A Special Providence by Richard Yates

Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates

Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates

Liars in Love by Richard Yates

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates 

Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates

Chatterton Square by E. H. Young 

Miss Mole by E. H. Young

The Burning of the World by Béla Zombory-Moldován (tr. by Peter Zombory-Moldován)

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig (tr. by Anthea Bell)

Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig (tr. by Anthea Bell)

Chéri by Colette (tr. by Roger Senhouse)

Today sees my next contribution to August’s Women in Translation month (#WITMonth), a brilliant event hosted by Biblibio: Colette’s Chéri, first published in France in 1920.

In the opening pages of this novella, we are introduced to Léa de Lonval, a courtesan in her late-forties, and her young gigolo, Fred, affectionately known as Chéri.

Chéri Peloux, a rather vain and idle twenty-five-year-old with a penchant for pearls, has been living with Léa, a ‘friend’ and sparring partner of his mother‘s, for six years. Léa has, in many ways, been the making of Chéri, transforming him from an undernourished adolescent into a handsome young lover. But now their situation is about to change. Chéri is to be married to Edmée, the daughter of Marie-Laure (another acquaintance of Léa’s), and this development leaves Léa feeling somewhat concerned about her advancing age and the end of her days as a courtesan:

‘What’s the matter?’ Chéri asked.

She looked at him in astonishment. ‘Nothing, I don’t like the rain, that’s all.’

‘Oh! All right, I thought…’


‘I thought something was wrong.’

She could not help giving a frank laugh. ‘Wrong with me, because you’re getting married? No, listen…you’re…you’re so funny.’

She seldom laughed outright, and her merriment vexed Chéri. He shrugged his shoulders and made the usual grimace while lighting a cigarette, jutting out his chin too far and protruding his lower lip.

‘You oughtn’t to smoke before luncheon,’ Léa said.

He made some impertinent retort she did not hear. She was listening to the sound of her own voice and its daily lectures, echoing away down the past five years. ‘It’s like the endless repetition in opposite looking-glasses,’ she thought. Then, with a slight effort, she returned to reality and cheerfulness.

‘It’s lucky for me that there’ll soon be someone else to stop you smoking on an empty stomach.’

‘Oh! she won’t be allowed to have a say in anything,’ Chéri declared. ‘She’s going to be my wife, isn’t she? Let her kiss the sacred ground I tread on, and thank her lucky starts for the privilege. And that will be that.’

He exaggerated the thrust of his chin, clenched his teeth on his cigarette-holder, parted his lips, and, as he stood there in his white silk pyjamas, succeeded only in looking like an Asiatic prince grown pale in the impenetrable obscurity of palaces. (pgs. 30-31, Vintage Books)

There’s so much in the passage I’ve just quoted: Léa’s inner sadness and resignation at the prospect of Chéri’s forthcoming marriage; her determination, outwardly, to put a brave face on things; Chéri’s vanity and air of self-importance. And there’s Chéri’s comment about the role of his bride-to-be. A wife is expected to serve and attend to her husband’s needs; her own voice and opinions are of little importance in this society. In fact, I didn’t feel I got to know Edmée very well at all during the course of this story, but perhaps that’s the author’s intention?


As the novella progresses we are treated to some wonderfully comic interplay between the main players, especially the three middle-aged women: Léa, Chéri’s mother (Madame Charlotte Peloux) and Marie-Laure, the mother of Chéri’s young bride. Colette portrays Léa and Charlotte Peloux as friendly adversaries, somehow drawing comfort from one another despite their differences. In this scene, at a gathering at Madame Peloux’s house, the guests discuss Chéri and Edmée’s wedding and the mother of the bride, Marie-Laure:

‘Madame Charlotte told us all about the wedding ceremony,’ bleated Madame Aldonza. ‘The young Madame Peloux was a dream in her wreath of orange blossom!’

‘A madonna! A madonna!’ Madame Peloux corrected at the top of her voice, with a burst of religious fervour. ‘Never, never, has anyone looked so divine. My son was in heaven! In heaven, I tell you! … What a pair they made, what a pair!’

‘You hear that, my passion? Orange blossom!’ Lili murmured. ‘And tell me, Charlotte, what about our mother-in-law, Marie-Laure?’

Madame Peloux’s pitiless eyes sparkled: ‘Oh, her! Out of place, absolutely out of place. In tight-fitting, black, like an eel wriggling out of the water – you could see everything, breasts, stomach – everything!’

‘By Jove!’ muttered the Baroness de la Berche with military gusto.

‘And that look of contempt she has for everybody, that look of having a dose of cyanide up her sleeve and half a pint of chloroform inside her handbag! As I said, out of place – that exactly describes her. She behaved as if she could only open spare us five minutes of her precious time –she’d hardly brushed the kiss off her lips, before she said, “Au revoir, Edmée, au revoir, Fred,” and off she flew.’ (pgs. 43-44)

However, it is the changes in Léa and Chéri’s relationship which form the heart of this book. Léa has had a number of other lovers in the past, but Chéri just might be the love of her life. At one point, he openly admits:

‘What I should have liked, or rather what would have been…fitting…decent…is to be your last [lover].’ (pg. 33)

Alone for the first time in many years, Léa is unable to settle, anxious that her beauty is fading. Which of the old crones at Madame Peloux’s house will Léa resemble in ten years’ time?

She drank some water, got out of bed, bathed her inflamed eyes, put on a little powder, poked the fire, and went back to bed. She was on her guard, full of mistrust for an enemy she had never known: grief. She had just said goodbye to thirty years of easy living: years spent pleasantly, intent often on love, sometimes on money. This had left her, at almost fifty, still young and defenceless. (p. 47)

That’s about as much as I’m going to reveal about the plot, apart from saying that my sympathies were with Léa throughout. Luckily for her, she is financially independent at a time when many women had to marry for financial support and survival.

Chéri was my first experience of Colette, and I’d happily read another at some point. I enjoyed the richness of Colette’s prose and the wonderful evocation of the period.

Other information on ColetteLizzi at These Little Words posted a very interesting piece on Colette (which prompted me to try one of her books), and Max at Pechorin’s Journal has reviewed Gigi and The CatGigi sounds as if it would make a delightful companion piece to Chéri.

My edition of Chéri (tr. by Roger Senhouse) is published in the UK by Vintage Books. Source: personal copy.

Drowned by Therese Bohman (tr. by Marlaine Delargy)

Where to start with Drowned? Well, I should say upfront that it’s a psychological novella by the Swedish editor and literary critic, Therese Bohman. Drowned is a little different to the types of books I typically choose, but a reading friend recommended it and I was keen to give it a shot.

The story is divided into two parts, and the first section opens with Marina, who narrates the story, arriving in Skåne (in the Swedish countryside) to visit her older sister, Stella. The two sisters have not seen one another in some time, and Stella now lives with Gabriel, a relatively famous novelist in his mid-forties. Gabriel is a good fifteen years older than Stella, an age difference that appears to have caused the girls’ parents some concern.


The differences between the two sisters are evident from the opening pages of this novella. In the blistering heat of midsummer, Marina arrives by train feeling listless, grubby and headachy from the journey, whereas Stella appears cool and elegant. Marina seems ambivalent about the demise of her relationship with boyfriend, Peter (who has gone to Spain with friends), and shows little enthusiasm for her studies at Stockholm. By contrast, Stella invests much energy in her role as a landscape planner; she is a keen gardener, both at home and at work where she heads up the planning section of the council and parks department.

Gabriel works from home in the couple’s somewhat isolated idyllic cottage surrounded by a garden bursting with plants and flowers, and these images form one of the key themes within the book. Following the success of his first novel, Ophelia (another reference point), Gabriel is frustrated by the process of re-writing his second. Marina read Ophelia some years ago in high school, and while her memories of the book are somewhat vague, she can recall a ‘cloying sense of love bordering on obsession’ so well written it was almost as if she had experienced it herself.

In the heady and intense summer heat, it’s not long before a precarious attraction develops between Marina and Gabriel. In this early scene, Gabriel has been painting the henhouse in the garden and on seeing Marina, he realises there is a smear of paint on his forehead:

I move a step closer and run my thumb gently over the mark on his forehead. He looks at me, no longer smiling. There is a strong smell of paint, as if the hot, still air is intensifying the smell, making it linger. The lock of hair falls into his eyes again, and I gently push it aside to get at the paint. I can feel his breath against my cheek, he is close now, bending his head toward me so that I can reach. His forehead is brown from the sun, his whole face, his arms, he is wearing a faded black T-shirt and he smells wonderful, warm.

“Has it gone?”


I hold up my hand to show him, red paint on my thumb and forefinger, and he suddenly grabs hold of my wrist, twists my hand around, and looks at my fingers. It is a rapid movement, decisive, his grip is hard, just like when I met him on that first evening, the firm handshake. Perhaps he isn’t aware of how strong he is.

“Pretty nail polish,” he says.

I did my nails last night, a cool pink, shimmering like mother-of-pearl in the sunlight.

“Thanks,” I say quietly.

My cheeks flush red. (Other Press, pg. 33)

There is a vague sense of unease in the relationships between each of the three main characters. Relations between the two sisters feel a little strained, and I’ve already touched upon Marina and Gabriel. As for Gabriel and Stella, at times the writer is loving and attentive towards his partner, but on other occasions he wonders what he’s supposed to do to make her happy. Moreover, Stella hints to her sister that she finds Gabriel somewhat unstable and difficult to live with.

Bohman brings a claustrophobic, stifling atmosphere to this first section of Drowned. Aromas pervade the air, and the heady, oppressive, almost fecund mood is augmented by descriptions of plants and flowers as they creep and spread into every available space:

There is a vase of sweet peas on the table now, spreading a perfume that seems to grow more intense as the day goes on. They clamber up a length of chicken wire in the kitchen garden, getting entangled in one another and in the wire, winding their tendrils like lianas around everything they can reach, greedily, clinging on tightly, some are impossible to pull free when you’re picking them. (pg. 72)

The second section of the book moves forward to November as Marina returns once again to the house in Skåne. The torrid heat has long gone, but this part of the story remains atmospheric as a result of a plunge in temperature:

This is late fall, raw and rainy. I can no longer smell the rotting leaves, it is no longer possible to tell that it was once summer. The entire landscape is in a state of torpor, it has resigned itself, let go. No fall colours, only brown and gray, no leaves left on the trees, they are lying on the ground now, sodden in the puddles, crushed, a mush of fallen leaves covering the lawn. (pg 111)

I enjoyed this psychological novella about how secrets, obsessions and guilt can bind people together. Bohman explores the darker aspects of our relationships, and she does so in a way that held my interest throughout. There are a few themes I would have liked to discuss further in this review, but it’s very difficult to do so without disclosing key elements of the plot. Drowned is an unsettling read, and in some ways it reminds me a little of Hanne Ørstavik’s The Blue Room (tr. by Deborah Dawkin), certainly in terms of the novella’s somewhat claustrophobic and unnerving atmosphere – while Drowned maintains an air of ambiguity, The Blue Room is a more slippery read and harder to pin down.

I’ll wrap up with one final point. Occasionally during the narrative, Marina reflects on memories of her relationship with Stella when they were children, and I found myself looking for hints and clues from the past. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of these sections:

I think about when I was little, when it was winter and Stella and I were waiting in the backseat of the car for Mom and Dad, who had gone off to do some shopping or something, and the windows got all misted up on the inside and we drew flowers and animals and hearts, and Stella wrote the names of the boys she was in love with. Dad used to tell us to try not to breathe until he had closed the car door and we would laugh and try, timing each other to see how long we could hold our breath, Stella always won. (pg. 136)

I read this book to link in with Biblibio’s focus on Women in Translation (#WITMonth), which is running throughout August.

Drowned is published by Other Press. Source: personal copy.

Speedboat by Renata Adler

Renata Adler is an American author, journalist and critic – she worked for The New Yorker for over four decades. Her first novel, Speedboat, published in 1976 won the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel.

The notes on the back of my NYRB Classics edition state that when Speedboat arrived in the mid-seventies, it was ‘like nothing readers had ever encountered before.’ Speedboat doesn’t follow a conventional narrative arc; nor does it possess a noticeable plot as such. What we have here is a series of fragments from the life of an American investigative journalist, Jen Fain, seen through the eyes of this woman as she is our narrator, our guide through this fascinating work.


Episodic in style and form, Speedboat presents a collection of Jen’s reflections, observations and vignettes from a variety of stages in her life ranging from her days at boarding school and college, her time as an investigative journalist, as a speech writer for a political candidate and more. We encounter the inhabitants of Jen’s brownstone in New York, friends and acquaintances, taxi drivers, and some of the subjects of her journalistic dispatches from around the world. Jen’s lovers and partners also feature, but these characters appear to be on the periphery of her story, coming and going into the frame from time to time.

Timelines move backwards and forwards giving the novel a sense of elasticity and fluidity as we flit from one situation to the next, from one topic to another. One of the pleasures of reading Speedboat stems from not knowing where it is going to take us and whether we will return subsequently to the same period in this woman’s life or move on indefinitely. In this example, Jen touches on her days as a student in Paris – It’s a brief stopover, and we don’t know if we’ll hear more at a later stage:

One night, in Paris, during the last days of the Algerian crisis, I was studying in a common room at the Cité Universitaire—where I used to live and where four apparently interchangeable Americans incessantly played bridge. A bomb went off. The explosion was enormous. Windows smashed. Doors fractured. The reception desk blew up. The lights went out. The first words after the thunder and reverberations in the darkness were an imperturbable, incredulous, “Two hearts.” (pgs. 30-31)

Adler’s slices of prose vary in lengthanything from a sentence or two to a couple of pages. And they vary in tone, toosome are underscored with laconic wry humour, others convey a darker mood. Several fragments are keenly observed:

The wallflower sat reading in the Paris restaurant. There used to be so many categories of wallflower: the anxious, smiling, tense ones who leaned forward, trying; the important, busy, apparently elsewhere preoccupied ones, who were nonetheless waiting, waiting in the carpeted offices of their inattention, to be found. There were wallflowers who clustered noisily together, and others who worked a territory, resolute and alone. And then, there were wallflowers who had recognised for years that the thing was hopeless, who had found in that information a kind of calm. They no longer tried, with a bright and desperate effort, to sustain a conversation with somebody’s brother, somebody’s usher, somebody’s roommate, somebody’s roommate’s usher’s brother, or, worst of all, with that male wallflower who ought—by God who ought—to be an ally, who could, in dignity and the common interest, join forces to make it through an evening, but who, after all, had higher aspirations, and neither the sense nor the courtesy to conceal it, who in short, scorned the partner fate and the placement had dealt him, worst of all. The category of wallflower who had given up on all this was very quiet, not indifferent, only quiet. And she always brought a book. (pg. 151)

Adler is especially good on the use of language: the implied meaning behind particular words in newspaper reports and reviews; the unintended impact of certain phrases in our conversations:

It certainly does not do to have too low a threshold for being insulted. Even the affectionate insult, or the compliment with any sort of spin on it, can reverberate in memory in awful ways. “I love your little fat legs,” Paul said to Joanne. He had watched her walking toward him on the beach. He was so in love with her that, although he meant it, he may not even have heard what he said, exactly. She never forgave him. She slept with him for another year and then married his enemy and rival, the only man Paul had ever hated in the world. “You have beautiful eyes and lovely hands,” Leroy said to Jane, “and when you smile, to me you’re beautiful.” She never forgave him, either. She married him. Their life together was hell for fifty years. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re lovely?” is, of necessity, a minefield. There is no conceivable proper answer. It all ends in disaster anyway. (pg. 130)

At first there appears to be no clear connection from one episode to the next. But as the novel progresses, we begin to build a collage of a life refracted through the lens of a disaffected America in the mid-seventies. The fragmentary form of the novel on its own could imply a feeling of dissonance and unrest. And perhaps more significantly, many of Adler’s vignettes are underscored (or signed off) with a weariness, an uncertainty, a sense of fear, even, that seems indicative of this period in American politics and culture:

When I wonder what it is that we are doing – in this brownstone, on this block, with this paper – the truth is probably that we are fighting for our lives (pg. 68)

Jim works for the candidate just about full time now. I’m surprised that I hate it, but I do. For a time, our people used to mill about saying “The system works. The system works” –the way kids used to run off the field shouting “We won. We won. We won,” when the game had been called on account of rain, or darkness, or because somebody had decided to take his baseball home. I am sure it does work, or I hope it does, and I used to think it did; but I was glad when we could all stop saying that. (pg. 148)

People seem to be unhappy in so many different ways. (pg 145)

Speedboat is a revelation; broad in scope, intimate in detail. Adler brings a deep intelligence to this work, and the quality of her writing is top notch. It’s a book to savour, one I’d love to revisit in the future.

I can’t recommend Speedboat highly enough, although it might not be to your taste if you like plot-driven narratives and novels that follow fairly conventional principles. If you’re in the mood for something different, however, something that seems way ahead of its time in terms of pushing the boundaries of the novel form, then Speedboat could be for you.

Speedboat is published in the UK by NYRB Classics. Source: personal copy.

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (review)

I’ve already reviewed My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name, the first two books in Elena Ferrante’s recent series of Neapolitan novels. The Days of Abandonment, a stand-alone novel, was first published in Italy in 2002 and translated into the English in 2005.


The Days of Abandonment is narrated by Olga, a thirty-eight-year-old woman originally from Naples, now living in Turin. She has been married to Mario for fifteen years, and they have two young children, Ilaria and Gianni. In a quietly devastating opening paragraph, Mario informs Olga that he wants to leave her:

One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me. He did it while we were clearing the table; the children were quarreling as usual in the next room, the dog was dreaming, growling beside the radiator. He told me that he was confused, that he was having terrible moments of weariness, of dissatisfaction, perhaps of cowardice. He talked for a long time about our fifteen years of marriage, about the children and admitted that he had nothing to reproach us with, neither them nor me. He was composed, as always, apart from an extravagant gesture of his right hand when he explained to me, with a childish frown, that soft voices, a sort of whispering, were urging him elsewhere. Then he assumed the blame for everything that was happening and closed the front door carefully behind him, leaving me turned to stone beside the sink. (p. 9, Europa Editions)

At first, Olga is convinced that Mario isn’t serious; after all, this has happened before. Six months after the couple got together, Mario suddenly announced that he no longer wished to see Olga, only to return five days later claiming ‘there had come upon him a sudden absence of sense.’

Consequently, in the early stages of their separation, Olga continues to behave affectionately towards Mario ‘ready to sustain him in his obscure crisis’ as he returns periodically to visit the children. But Olga soon feels a sharp animosity growing inside her, a bitterness only heightened when she learns Mario has left her for another woman, and her demeanour starts to alter:

I began to change. In the course of a month I lost the habit of putting on makeup carefully. I went from using a refined language, attentive to the feelings of others, to a sarcastic way of expressing myself, punctuated by coarse laughter. Slowly, in spite of my resistance, I also gave in to obscenity.

Obscenity came to my lips naturally; it seemed to me that it served to communicate to the few acquaintances who still tried coldly to console me that I was not one to be taken in by fine words. As soon as I opened my mouth I felt the wish to mock, smear, defile Mario and his slut. I hated the idea that he knew everything about me while I knew little or nothing of him. (pg. 26)

In an effort to calm herself, Olga begins to re-examine her relationship with Mario in the minutest detail in an attempt to understand where she has gone wrong and why her husband has left. But it’s not long before her need to self-analyse gives way to feelings driven by resentment and rage:

A tangle of resentments, the sense of revenge, the need to test the humiliated power of my body were burning up any residue of good sense.  (pg. 48)

As Olga struggles to maintain a grip on her life, those around her bear the brunt of her frustrations; she strikes out at Mario, strangers who cross her path, and she comes perilously close to abandoning her children in the gardens of the local museum (near a statue of Pietro Micca):

And I began to shout that, if in their opinion I was no good, they should go to him [their father], there was a new mother, beautiful and smart, certainly from Turin, I would bet she knew everything about Pietro Micca and that city of kings and princesses, of haughty people, cold people, metal automatons. I screamed and screamed, out of control. (pg. 65)

And a few lines later:

Ah yes, I wished to wound them, my children, I wished to wound above all the boy, who already had a Piedmontese accent, Mario, too, spoke like a Turinese now, he had eliminated the Neapolitan cadences utterly. Gianni acted like an impudent young bull, I detested it, he was growing up foolish and presumptuous and aggressive, eager to shed his own blood or that of others in some uncivilized conflict, I couldn’t bear it any more.

I left them in the gardens, beside the fountain, and set out quickly along Via Galileo Ferraris, toward the suspended figure of Victor Emmanuel II, a shadow at the end of parallel lines of buildings, high up against a slice of warm cloudy sky. Maybe I really wanted to abandon them forever, forget about them, so that when Mario finally showed up again I could strike my forehead and exclaim: your children? I don’t know. I seem to have lost them: the last time I saw them was a month ago, in the gardens of the Cittadella.

After a little I slowed down, turned back. What was happening to me. I was losing touch with those blameless creatures, they were growing distant, as if balanced on a log floating away upon the flow of the current. Get them back, take hold of them again, hug them close: they were mine. (pgs 65-66)

From here, Olga descends into a deep depression and finds herself staring, falling even, into the darkest recesses of a terrible abyss. There is an excruciating scene in which she seeks sex with one of her neighbours, not out of any feelings of desire (in fact she finds this man quite repulsive) but out of a desperate need to negate the insult of being deserted by Mario.

Tormented by thoughts of Mario and his new life, Olga is unable to think clearly or concentrate on anything else. Confusion and disorientation reign as this woman’s previously ordered life crumbles around her. Having neglected to pay the bill she finds the phone is no longer working; ants infest her apartment, and there are a couple of scenes involving door locks which I’ll avoid discussing for fear of revealing further details about this section of Olga’s story.

I had only to quiet the view inside, the thoughts. They got mixed up, they crowded in on one another, shreds of words and images, buzzing frantically, like swarms of wasps, they gave to my gestures a brute capacity to do harm. (pg. 93)

While the title, The Days of Abandonment, clearly refers to Mario’s desertion of Olga, there’s also a sense that the phrase refers to Olga’s surrender to her own state of mind:

Something in my senses wasn’t working. An interruption of feeling, of feelings. Sometimes I abandoned myself to it, at times I was frightened…I didn’t know how to find answers to the question marks, every possible answer seemed absurd. I was lost in the where am I, in the what am I doing. I was mute beside the why. (pg. 107)

At various stages of her abandonment Olga is hounded by her memories of a once contented woman from her Neapolitan childhood, a woman whose husband ran away to Pescara for the love of another. This woman’s husband ‘had abandoned her, had cancelled her out from memory and feeling’ leaving her with nothing, not even her name; she became known as the ‘poverella,’ a poor woman torn to pieces by the loss of her husband. At one stage, Olga even questions her own identity as she struggles to separate reality from the imaginary: is she becoming the ‘poverella’ of her childhood?

Occasionally though, Olga regains a sense of proportion, a feeling that she can recover from this terrible experience and pull herself out of this place. Will she succeed? Well, that’s not for me to say, but if you read this exceptional novel, you’ll find out for yourself.

I was expecting The Days of Abandonment to be very good, but it is extraordinarily good. This is no-holds-barred fearless writing, a novel that delves deeply into the human psyche. Ferrante writes with devastating candour, exploring our perceptions of a woman, a mother with responsibilities, who finds herself face-to-face with a crisis. The story is shocking and violent in places, and the language explicit at times, but my word it feels necessary to convey the intensity of Olga’s story. A disturbing, but utterly unforgettable and compelling book, admirably translated by Ann Goldstein.

Biblibio and Tony Malone have also reviewed this novel, which I read as part of August’s Women in Translation #WITMonth, championed by Biblibio.

The Days of Abandonment (tr. Ann Goldstein) is published in the UK by Europa Editions. Source: review copy kindly provided by the publishers.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (review)

In Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter presents us with the story of Sophie Fevvers, the ‘Cockney Venus’, the most famous aerialiste of her day, and what a dazzling, sprawling tale it is. The novel opens at the tail end of the nineteenth century, and the scene is Fevvers’ dressing room at the Alhambra Music Hall, London. Here, in a setting littered with her dirty underwear, Fevvers entertains American journalist, Jack Walser, with the tale of her biography to date. There is an aura of mystery surrounding the mercurial Fevvers – here we have a creature who claims to be part woman, part bird, and her slogan adds to the mystique: ‘Is she fact or is she fiction?’ Walser is all set to gain the inside track on the aerialiste’s story, and if at all possible, to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Fevvers claims she was ‘hatched out of bloody great egg’ to the sound of Bow Bells, and the aerialiste paints a vivid picture of her backstory. We hear of Fevvers’ early years raised in a brothel, and how, aged thirteen, her wings burst through and she learns to fly. We follow the young Fevvers as poverty forces her to join Madame Schreck’s Museum of Women Monsters, where she is sold to the rather sinister Mr Rosencreutz.


As Fevvers recounts her tale to Walser, she is aided by foster mother, Lizzie, and Carter whips up a quick pen-portrait of the aerialiste’s guardian in just a few lines:

Lizzie was a tiny, wizened, gnome-like apparition who might have been any age between thirty and fifty; snapping, black eyes, sallow skin, an incipient moustache on the upper lip and a close-cropped frizzle of tri-coloured hair – bright grey at the roots, stark grey in between, burnt with henna at the tips. (pg. 10, Vintage Books)

This first section of the novel (London) is a glorious piece of writing, full of incident and intrigue, and the artist recounts her story with considerable brio. Fevvers is a wonderfully earthy, bawdy individual – she swigs champagne, belches away and flirts with Walser as the hours of the night slip by:

She pulled a coil of hair out of her chignon and wrapped it round her finger, twisting it and biting it thoughtfully; then, suddenly, she whirled away from the mirror on her revolving stool and leaned confidentially towards Walser.

‘Now, sir, I shall let you into a great secret, for your eyes alone and not for publication, because I’ve taken a liking to your face, sir.’ At that, she batted her eyelids like a flirt, She lowered her voice to a whisper, so that Walser needs must lean forward in turn to hear her; her breath, flavoured with champagne, warmed his cheek,

‘I dye, sir!’


‘My feathers, sir! I dye them! Don’t think I bore such gaudy colours from puberty! I commenced to dye my feathers at the start of my public career on the trapeze, in order to simulate more perfectly the tropic bird. In my white girlhood and earliest years, I kept my natural colour. Which is a kind of blonde, only a little darker than the hair on my head, more the colour of that on my private ahem parts.

‘Now that’s my dreadful secret, Mr Walser, and to tell the whole truth and nothing but, the only deception which I practice on the public!’

To emphasise the point, she brought her empty glass down with such a bang on the dressing-table that the jars of fards and lotions jumped and rattled, expelling sharp gusts of cheap scent, and a cloud of powder rose up into the air from a jogged box, catching painfully in Walser’s throat so that he broke out coughing. Lizzie thumped his back. Fevvers disregarded these proceedings. (pg 24-5)

Towards the end of the novel’s London section, Fevvers joins Colonel Kearney’s circus, signing a six-figure deal to tour Russia and beyond. And Walser, who still senses something feral, almost dangerous about Fevvers (especially when he’s alone with this formidable creature) decides to go undercover and tag along as a clown.

As the action moves to St Petersburg (in part two), Carter introduces us to a variety of remarkable characters and anecdotes. We meet the inhabitants of Clown Alley, chimps, tigers and all manner of circus performers. As one might expect, there are thrills and spills aplenty, and Carter treats us to more of her lush, rich prose. In this scene, the Strong Man is caught in flagrante delicto with the Ape Man’s partner as a tiger escapes and pursues, Sybil, Colonel Kearney’s pet pig:

The tiger ran into the ring, hot on the scent of Sybil.

It came out of the corridor like orange quicksilver, or a rarer liquid metal, a quickgold. It did not so much run as flow, a questing sluice of brown and yellow, a hot molten death. It prowled and growled around the remains of the chimps’ classroom, snuffing up its immense, flaring nostrils the delicious air of freedom fragrant with the scent of meat on the hoof. How yellow its teeth were; the festering teeth of carnivores.

The Strong Man tore off the woman’s clinging arms, clutched his loincloth round his privates and made for the auditorium door. He was a fine specimen, in prime condition; he swung from tier to tier, past Walser struck like a pillar of salt, up and away. The exit banged to behind him. Walser heard the sound of the shooting of the bolts.

Now the only way out of the ring was that by which the tiger had entered it.

I am in a perfect death trap, thought Walser. (pg.129)

At the end of their stay in St Petersburg, an eventful final evening leaves the circus somewhat depleted as they depart for Japan – a journey that takes the troupe across Siberia by rail (forming part three of the story).

I love the first two sections of this energetic and humorous novel. Carter blurs the margins between reality and the imaginary, and even though the story becomes increasingly surreal, I was fully engaged right up to the end of events in St Petersburg. But then, just as I was anticipating a grand finale, partway through the final section the story veers off course deep into the realms of fantasy. During the troupe’s travels across the Siberian hinterland, Carter really lets rip with her imagination, but for me, this is where the narrative gets lost in the wilderness.

Despite my reservations about the Siberian section – Carter does pull it back, just – I would recommend Nights at the Circus for its sheer verve and imaginative scope. There are several references to gender and feminism threaded through the novel, too. The women in this novel tend to form the strongest, most supportive relationships with other females, whereas their encounters with men are often characterised by violence and/or abuse of some kind. As the story draws to a close and we approach the dawn of the 20th century, Fevvers foresees a future when ‘all the women will have wings the same as I’. Lizzie, however, believes the new era will be more complicated and predicts struggles on the horizon:

‘This old witch sees storms ahead, my girl. When I look to the future, I see through a glass, darkly.’ (pg. 339)

Reading Nights at the Circus is an intoxicating, heady and entertaining experience, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I return to Angela Carter.

Nights at the Circus is published in the UK by Vintage Books. Source: personal copy

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (tr. Ann Goldstein)

A month or so ago, I reviewed My Brilliant Friend, the first volume in a series of Neapolitan novels by the Italian writer Elena Ferrante. This vibrant story, set in 1950s Naples, shows us the lives of two young girls, Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo, from childhood through adolescence, ending when the two girls are sixteen. It’s a sweeping, epic tale with the feel of a modern classic. Superbly translated by Ann Goldstein, the book paints a rich and nuanced portrait of Elena and Lila’s friendship through the years. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the second book in the series, The Story of a New Name, in which we follow Elena and Lila from the end of their adolescence to their early twenties.

WARNING: In order to review this second volume, I have to reveal the ending of the first novel, My Brilliant Friend and events in the opening 50 pages of New Name (this book runs to 480 pages).

Cover4-192x300 The Story of a new name

The Story of a New Name opens as Elena recalls the time in 1966 when Lila entrusts to her care a box containing eight notebooks. Lila, afraid that her husband might find her notebooks, can no longer conceal them at home. Despite promising not to open the box, Elena cannot help resist the temptation to read Lila’s notebooks – not a diary as such, but detailed accounts of the events of her life, exuding the ‘force of seduction that Lila had given off since she was a child’. (These pages also provide us, the readers, with a useful summary of some of the key episodes in My Brilliant Friend.) Elena studies Lila’s account of events for weeks, focusing on passages that thrill, hypnotise and humiliate her. In the end, she is frustrated by the experience and decides to take action:

Finally, one evening in November, exasperated, I went out carrying the box. I couldn’t stand feeling Lila on me and in me, even now that I was esteemed myself, even now I that I had a life outside of Naples. I stopped on the Solferino bridge to look at the lights filtered through a cold mist. I placed the box on the parapet and pushed it slowly, a little at a time, until it fell into the river, as if it were her, Lila in person, plummeting, with her thoughts, words, the malice with which she struck back at anyone, the way she appropriated me, as she did every person or thing or event or thought that touched her: books and shoes, sweetness and violence, the marriage and the wedding night, the return to the neighbourhood in the new role of Signora Raffaella Carracci. (pg. 18)

We return to the drama of Lila’s wedding to Stefano Carracci, owner of the neighbourhood grocery stores. It soon becomes clear that Lila’s marriage (at the age of sixteen) is already over before the close of her wedding day. She learns that Stefano has been forced to enter into a business partnership with the influential and brash Solara family in order to protect the future of the Cerullo shoe business (managed by Lila’s father and brother). Lila despises the Solara brothers, Marcello and Michele, and is livid with Stefano for forging a connection between the two families. Lila and her new husband continue to quarrel and return from honeymoon after only four days. When Elena next sees Lila she learns of the traumatic start to her friend’s life as a married woman; Lila is wearing dark sunglasses and a scarf to cover the bruises on her face, the result of beatings from her husband, and she appears resigned to her fate:

We had grown up thinking that a stranger must not even touch us, but that our father, our boyfriend, and our husband could hit us when they liked, out of love, to educate us, to reeducate us. As a result, since Stefano was not the hateful Marcello but the young man to whom she had declared her love, whom she had married, and with whom she had had decided to live forever, she assumed complete responsibility for her choice. And yet it didn’t add up. In my eyes Lila was Lila, not an ordinary girl of the neighbourhood. Our mothers, after they were slapped by their husbands, did not have that expression of calm disdain. They despaired, they wept, they confronted their man sullenly, they criticized him behind his back, and yet, more or less, they continued to respect him (my mother, for example, plainly admired my father’s devious deals). Lila instead displayed an acquiescence without respect. (pg. 53)

At the heart of this narrative is the depth and intensity of Elena’s relationship with the brilliant Lila. In this scene, Elena recaptures some of the joy of her childhood with Lila as the she helps her friend create a dazzling piece of art for display in the Solara’s glamorous new shoe shop in the city:

Before our astonished and, in the cases of some, openly hostile eyes, she cut strips of black paper, with the manual precision she had always possessed, and pinned them here and there to the photograph, asking for my help with slight gestures or quick glances.

I joined in with the devotion that I had felt ever since we were children. Those moments were thrilling, it was a pleasure to be beside her, slipping inside her intentions, to the point of anticipating her. I felt that she was seeing something that wasn’t there, and that she was struggling to make us see it, too. I was suddenly happy, feeling the intensity that invested her, that flowed through her fingers as they grasped the scissors, as they pinned the black paper. (pg. 119)

But Elena’s feelings for her friend are bound up in a tangle of emotions, often contradictory to one another. As in the previous novel, she is constantly reflecting, self-analysing and comparing herself to Lina. Deep down Elena fears that she is not as attractive or as talented as her friend, and she may be consigned to remain in Lila’s shadow:

I was afraid that, whatever she wore, her beauty would explode like a star and everyone would be eager to grab a fragment of it. I was afraid that she would express herself in dialect, that she would say something vulgar, that it would become obvious that school for her had ended with an elementary-school diploma. I was afraid that, if she merely opened her mouth, everyone would be hypnotized by her intelligence and Professor Galiani herself would be entranced. (pg. 151)

As with the first book, Ferrante brings the same sense of passion and vitality to The Story of a New Name. She presents a vivid and detailed picture of this working-class neighbourhood of Naples with its shoemakers, grocers and pastry makers. We see the tensions and rivalries between families, ferocious arguments over love, money, power and reputation in the community. We follow individuals as they try to break away from the constraints of their background. Elena tries to achieve this through education, while the Solaras, Carraccis and Cerullos aim to better themselves through investment in their grocery and shoe businesses.

Another key strand in The Story of a New Name is Elena’s search for love. Since childhood, she has been attracted to Nino Sarratore, another brilliant and self-assured student from the neighbourhood. She feels thrilled to be in his company, enthused by their debates and discussions. Nino seems to be attracted to Elena, too, but the path to true love never runs smoothly and other forces run the risk of disrupting their budding relationship.

As with My Brilliant Friend, this second novel ends with a key event, a meeting that has the potential to alter the life of at least one of the two friends, possibly both. Once again, it left me desperate to read the next instalment in this utterly compelling story…and the English translation of book three in the series, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, is due to be published in the UK in September 2014.

Tony Malone and Tony Messenger have also reviewed The Story of a New Name.

I’ve reviewed this book in August to tie in with Women in Translation (#WITMonth), championed by Biblibio.

The Story of a New Name is published in the UK by Europa Editions. Source: library copy.

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (tr. Christina MacSweeney)

A couple of years ago I read (and very much enjoyed) Valeria Luiselli’s novel Faces in the Crowd, and now we have Sidewalks, a collection of essays from this talented young Mexican writer.

Luiselli, a keen observer, is a little like a modern-day flâneur (or in one essay, a ‘cycleur’, a flâneur on a bicycle), and we follow her through the city streets and sidewalks, seeing the surroundings through her eyes and gaining access to her thoughts.


Many of the essays in this collection concentrate on locations, spaces and cities. And the subheadings, while at first sight seem to bear little relation to the essays themselves, are mostly themed around journeys: locations in Mexico; directions; street signs. In Flying Home, Luiselli ponders the way in which maps and different viewpoints present Mexico City and how these images have altered over time, possibly reflecting changes in the character of the city itself:

There are those who say that Mexico City is like a Big Pear – a bizarre sister of the Big Apple; the widest part of the fruit to the south and the stalk somewhere around the Basílica de Guadalupe, in the northernmost borough. But on more careful examination, the flesh of the fruit has, in fact, overflowed far beyond its skin. A contemporary artist – or a child – might represent the pear-city with a silhouette, like the ones drawn in chalk at the scene of a murder, the consequences of which exceed the supposed contaminant of the outline: pear splattered on tarmac.

The latest map we have of Mexico City (Guía Roji, 2012) doesn’t look like anything – anything, except, perhaps a stain, a trace, a distant memory of something else. (pp. 27-28)

And a few lines later:

Far from above, lights glimmer in the valley and it regains its liquid past: a lake overcrowded with fishing boats. And on a clear day, from an airplane window, the city is almost comprehensible – a simpler representation of itself, to the scale of the human imagination. But as the airplane descends to earth, one discovers that the grid is floating on what seems to be an indeterminate stretch of grey water. The folds of the valley embody the threat of a wave of mercury which never quite breaks against the mountain range; the streets and avenues are petrified folds in an overflowing, ghostly lake. (pp. 28-29)

In an age of constant connectivity, Luiselli contemplates the transition to a world where there has been a switch between the status of the street as a public space and the home as a private one. In such a world ‘our only option is to construct small, fleeting intimacies in other spaces.’ She finds an ally in the night-shift doorman of her building, a man who ‘watches over the imprecise limits between the public world and the private.’

Only in that liminal space, under the umbrella of his company, do I feel safe from the claustrophobic categories of outside and inside. (p. 97)

The collection comes bookended by the author’s reflections on a visit to Venice. Luiselli has travelled here in search of the grave of Joseph Brodsky, and the subheadings in this essay come from the other tombstones (including those of Ezra Pound and Luchino Visconti) she encounters in her search for Brodsky’s grave. As Luiselli considers Brodsky’s life, she touches once again on the theme of residences and spaces:

But perhaps a person only has two real residences: the childhood home and the grave. All the other spaces we inhabit are a mere grey spectrum of that first dwelling, a blurred succession of walls that finally resolve themselves into the crypt or the urn – the tiniest of the infinite divisions of space into which a human bodies can fit. (pg.13)

In some of the essays, Luiselli turns her gaze towards her own writing, language and the meaning of certain words. In Alternative Routes, she muses on the meaning of the Portuguese word ‘saudade’, for which there is no direct translation. Here she considers how our minds operate as we try to navigate our way through another language:

When we have only a partial knowledge of a language, the imagination fills in the sense of a word, a phrase or a paragraph – like those drawing books where the pages are covered with dots that, as children, we had to join with a crayon to reveal the complete image. (p. 42)

I loved this collection of Valeria Luiselli’s illuminating essays, many of which have a philosophical and melancholy tone. The writing is excellent. Luiselli’s words (and Christina MacSweeney’s translation) seem to flow effortlessly across the page, and one could describe these glimpses into the author’s world as graceful prose poems or laments. In some respects, Sidewalks reminds me a little of Renata Adler’s Speedboat (which I’ll be reviewing in a few weeks’ time); while Speedboat is a novel, the two books share certain similarities in style and tone. Sidewalks also brings to mind Teju Cole’s Open City, a comparison Tony Malone makes in his excellent review of Luiselli’s novel, Faces in the Crowd. My one regret is that Sidewalks isn’t longer – Luiselli’s writing runs to around 100 pages but let’s hope there’s more on the way.

I’ll finish with a quote on books that seems to typify Luiselli’s writing:

Going back to a book is like returning to the cities we believe to be our own, but which, in reality, we’ve forgotten and been forgotten by. In a city — in a book — we vainly revisit passages, looking for nostalgias that no longer belong to us. Impossible to return to a place and find it as you left it — impossible to discover in a book exactly what you first read between its lines. We find, at best, fragments of objects among the debris, incomprehensible marginal notes that we have to decipher to make our own again. (pg. 85)

I read this book to link in with Biblibio’s #WITMonth (focusing on Women in Translation), which is running throughout August, and also Richard and Stu’s Spanish Lit Month which has been extended by a week or two.

Sidewalks is published in the UK by Granta Books. Source: personal copy.

Weekend Wine Notes: Spanish Whites for #SpanishLitMonth, Godello and Verdejo

I‘d intended to write a post on a couple of favourite Spanish white wines to coincide with Richard and Stu’s Spanish Lit Month in July, but alas, time got the better of me. And then our hosts decided to extend their focus on Spanish Lit by a couple of weeks, so here we are in August, and I’m still in time for the tie-in!

First up is an old favourite, a Spanish white I’ve been buying ever since it first grabbed my attention three years ago: Gaba do Xil Godello, an unoaked godello from Galicia (godello is the grape variety), made by a very talented winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez. This godello reminds me a little of a white Burgundy, but it’s more interesting than many unoaked chardonnays; there’s a mineral note here, a touch of something herby and a refreshing squeeze of lemon. A very well-balanced wine with sufficient body and interest to stand up to seafood, garlic and a bit of chilli heat. If you like this style of white wine but have never tried godello, do give it a go.


And moving on to a new discovery: Las Olas Verdejo, from the Rueda region, northwest of Madrid. Another unoaked white, this verdejo has a lovely aroma. At the risk of sounding like something out of fabric softener commercial, the aroma of this wine reminds me of an orchard in summer: slightly grassy, ripe pears and lemon (again). This verdejo tastes a little like sauvignon blanc, but without the stinging acidity that accompanies some wines made from this grape variety; it’s also more flavoursome than many sauvignon blancs. Las Olas (which translates as ‘wave’) is a very interesting wine and great value for money at £7.95 per bottle; another Spanish white for my re-buy list.

Wine stockist: I bought both wines from The Wine Society. I tasted the 2012 vintage of the Gaba do Xil Godello The Society has moved on to the 2013 vintage, priced at £9.50 per bottle. Las Olas Verdejo, 2013 is £7.95 per bottle.

If you’re interested in my Spanish Lit Month reviews, click here for a round-up with links.

Have you tried any Spanish white (or red) wines recently? Do you have any personal favourites?