Book Reviews

Review: Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki

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My Interest

I learned of this book on Twitter. The title went so well with my goal of reading seasonally that I found an e-book version on from my library and started to read it right away. An additional interest was that it is set in Greece. Not being fascinated by mythology, I haven’t read much set in or about Greece unless you count biographies of the late Danish-Greek Prince Philip. Add to this the fact that a few of my favorite book bloggers have/are reading it this summer and you can see why I wanted in on the story.

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The Story

“That summer we bought big straw hat. Maria’s had cherries around the rim, Infanta’s had forget-me-nots, and mine had poppies as red as fire” (p. 6).

Set in pre-World War II Greece, the story centers on three sisters,  Maria, Infanta, and Katarina–the daughters of a divorced couple who live in the country. It is that time in life when boys go from being a girl’s friend to being her future. Each of the girls has her own personality, her own dreams, and desires.

From the awakening of sexual desire through to motherhood the girls travel at their own pace, plotting their course to womanhood with guidance, wanted and unwanted, from their mother, a maiden aunt, their grandfather and friends.

“The scent of dung and milk, thyme and billy goat met her. It rose and mixed in with the heat until it became something you could actually touch” (p. 52).

So much of the writing is so beautiful, it is hard to remember that this is a translation. As I read the descriptions of the landscape, the scents, the way of life, I felt I was there.

[Some] were saying dissatisfied women live in their own imaginary world, that is, they’re deluded….Dissatisfied women are simply unsuccessful women” (p. 105). 

Ouch, I thought. A discordant note.

I loved the way the secrets unfolded gradually and in a manner consistent with real life. I liked too that these were real girls–they went off in huffs, they flounced out, they fell in love, they daydreamed, they escaped the control of their mother whenever possible. All perfectly normal. I loved that. And then one would remark, “I like life a lot” (p.198) and another would stare out a window “as if to ask the night why life was so strange” (p. 108).

My Thoughts

On the surface this is a lovely story, but underneath, in the thoughts of the boys, one can see just how radically different the thinking was back then. While men may still think like this in the deepest recesses of their minds, most do not verbalize, let alone, act on such thoughts.

“The more she restrained herself, the more angry he grew. He wanted to beat her. If only he dared….” (p. 127).

Every woman’s life is a search for a master. Ah, the thirst for submission, the thirst for submission….” (p. 127).

“And that head of hers that she carried so high…He must break her, make her lower it….”

These sentiments, it is true, are surrounded with the man’s love for the girl, with his expression of desire, and of how he would enjoy her, but it is very unsettling to read such statements today.

“You should see…on really hot days, when you lie out on the ledge of the cistern and close your eyes, and then open them a little later, how a thousand little suns leap up and down before your eyes and all around water is reflected o the trunks of the pines, trembling and golden, like little waves, and everything glows, everything, and it makes you want to laugh” (p. 226).

In spite of the beauty of the language, I just did not connect with this book they way I thought I would. There were times when I grew bored and restless and put it down. Yes, it could be the every-present COVID reading-ennui, but I think this time it was the book. My rating means it is a perfectly good book, well worth reading–especially for the excellence of the translation. I’m certainly glad I kept at it–it was worth it to see Greece at that time and to see how alike girls are regardless of their era of history.

My Verdict

3.0

Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki, translated by Karen Van Dyck

Book Reviews

Review: Murmur of Bees: A Novel by Sofia Segovia

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My Interest

This book, free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, caught my attention when I was trolling through my Kindle to see what I had in translation. I struck gold for this a Women in Translation Month–appropriate book! I splurged and bought the audio narration and it was well worth it, for this is a longer-than-average book. 470 pages used to be pretty average, but with the change of centuries books just started getting shorter on average.“We walk without looking back, because on this journey, all we care about is our destination.”

“We walk without looking back, because on this journey, all we care about is our destination.”

The Story

Simonopio is found abandoned as an infant, with a cleft palate or other facial disfigurement, and covered in bees. He is taken in by a local land-owning family and raised as their own. Meanwhile, all around them in Mexico revolution is raging and the Spanish ‘flu of 1918 is doing its own damage. Simonopio and the rest of his adopted- Morales family go on with their lives, taking what is dealt out to them.

“The miracle would have been if those arrogant fools with the fate of the country in their hands had listened in time to the voices of the experts. Now it was too late.”

My Thoughts

I laughed at some of the comments about it being too long, with too many characters. We have become a nation of lazy readers! The story is slow–it has an old-world pace to it. I did not find there were too many characters, though, it did take me a while to understand who one of them “was.” There were times when a sort of folklore tale took over and I did nearly quit in that scene. The family saga, though, kept me going–I wanted to know what happened to the family.

I have studied little of Mexican politics, but this revolution was among what I did encounter in college so I was aware of the setting. It is helpful, but not necessary to making sense of the story. This book made me truly aware that Texas and California were once truly part of Mexico. No reason for that to be the case–it just really hit me. Like most Americans today who are not of Mexican heritage. I suppose, Those two huge states, along with neighboring Arizona and, of course, New Mexico, have always been part of the U.S. Woodrow Wilson sent troops down to the boarder during this revolution.

The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia and translated by Simon Bruni

Book Reviews

Review: How To Cook Your Husband The African Way

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This book is a hoot! It IS raunchy, but oh my did the food sound GREAT!! This is a foodie book, a sexy romance-lovers book, and a fun multicultural whirl. It is short–may of you can read it in one go.

A man who makes you feel like that…deserves the best, a slice of Heaven, so I better get slicing and seasoning…

…she writes before a recipe for Turtle With Green Plantain–a dish I won’t be making, thank you! The closest I get to eating turtle is listening to Sinatra sing “is it the good turtle soup–or merely the moc?” Though a church near my one-time home in Louisville had a turtle soup dinner as fundraiser each year and drew huge crowds. My brother has been known to butcher and cook turtles, but then that’s him–not me!

This story has snark, it has sex, it has really weird food–Crocodile or Boa anyone? No? Really? Imagine that! Best of all, it is perfect for a quick extra read for Women in Translation Month! #WITMonth It is also FREE for Kindle–at least here in the U.S.A.

How to Cook Your Husband the African Way by Calixthe Beyala, translated by David Cohen. I think someone pointed out this freebie in their own #WITmonth post, but I neglected to save that information. If you know who it was, please let me know. I like to give credit where credit is due.

My original 2020 Women in Translation Post.

Book Reviews

Women in Translation Month Begins!

Follow @Read_WIT and #WITMonth

Women in Translation Month is the brainchild of blogger Biblibio and I like her take on it this year for her personal reading–she “will be focusing specifically on women writers from those countries, continents, subcontinents, and cultures that are too often brushed aside.”

My own reading will be whatever I can find. Living where I do, e-books are my best hope since most of the state’s libraries are barely functioning right now and there is deep fear about circulating print books. I probably also have one or two on hand I could read either lost in my Kindle or somewhere on my bookshelves.

I have not formally participated in this challenge before, but my eclectic reading and my project of Reading Around the World have led me to a lot of translated books. For my first try at this challenge, I plan to read one book in the month, and possibly more. It will depend on what reaches me in time and whether I like the title or not once I get it.

Here are some possible titles:

 

 

I could also just double-up and use my book from Spanish Lit Month, too.

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This too Shall Pass: A Novel by Milena Busquests (Valerie Miles)

 

Here are some of the books by women I’ve read in translation:

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Sandra Smith)

Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel (Stephanie Smee)

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Carol Christensen and Timothy Christensen)

Inkheart by Corenlia Funke (Anthea Bell)

Journey Into the Whirlwind by Eugenia S Ginzburgh (Paul Stevenson and Max Hayward)

Strange Weather in Tokyo/The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami (Allison Markin Powell)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Ginny Tapley Takemori)

 

Are you planning to join in the fun with Women In Translation Month? Can you recommend any titles? Leave me a comment or link to your own post.