Biskaya is the first novel by SchwarzRund.
Finished on: 30.6.2021
Content Note: suicide, mental illness, eating disorder, (critical treatment of) racism and queermisia
Tue is a Black woman in Berlin. She grew up on Biskaya, an island state that is part of the EU, but moved to Germany when she was still pretty young. Now she is the singer in punk band with a pretty good reputation and some success. But Tue struggles with her mental health, with being a Black queer woman in Germany, with her band members and with her flatmates. It is only with her best friend Matth, also queer and Black, that she feels at home.
Biskaya is an ambitious book. In some ways it is rather obvious that is a debut novel and maybe not quite as polished as you’d expect, but it is definitely worth it for the interesting perspectives it provides.
This Brutal House is a novel by Niven Govinden.
Finished on: 21.6.2021
Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, transmisia, queermisia
Teddy grew up with the Mothers, gay leaders of a voguing group who also took in the kids that came to walk with them and, more often than not, did not have a (safe) home – like Teddy. By now, Teddy is grown up and works for the city. That’s why he becomes the point person when the Mothers start a silent protest in front of city hall, camping there, holding a vigil, not saying a word – because their children have been going missing and nobody seems to care. Teddy has to navigate his conflicted loyalties, his own past and his childhood love for Sherry, one of the missing.
I will come right out and say it: I struggled with This Brutal House. It has beautiful prose, but I could not get into the style or the story.
The Black Flamingo is the first novel by Dean Atta, with illustrations by Anshika Khullar.
Finished on: 10.5.2021
Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, homomisia
Michael is a Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican, gay, Black boy in England. Figuring out what that means exactly isn’t easy. Throughout high school, he figures things out together with his best friend Daisy. But it isn’t until university where Michael discovers drag for himself that he really finds answers to the question of who he is.
The Black Flamingo is a novel in verse written for a younger audience about identity, race and sexual orientation. In theory, this sounds like a challenging novel to say the least. In practice, it is a wonderfully easy, touching read that challenges in such a way that you barely notice what it’s doing. It is absolutely fantastic.
The Story of a New Name is the second of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte eines neuen Namens) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 4.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]
Content Note: rape, domestic violence, abuse
With Lila’s marriage, she and Elena develop away from each other even more. But at the same time, they cannot let go of each other. Elena watches from a distance as Lila’s abusive marriage to Stefano turns ever more complicated by her husband’s business relations. Meanwhile Elena is dating Antonio more out of a sense of obligation, while still yearning for Nino who seems to be everything she aspires to. After Lila has a miscarriage, she asks Elena to accompany on a holiday to get her strength back. During that holiday, their paths cross with Nino and everything changes.
After reading My Brilliant Friend, I was reluctant but curious to continue, not quite sure what apparently millions of other people saw in the novel. The same thing is still true for The Story of a New Name. I read it, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either and I am still scratching my head as to why this series has gotten quite this big.
Rebecca is a novel by Daphne du Maurier.
Finished on: 6.2.2021
Working as a companion to Mrs van Hopper has brought the unnamed protagonist to Monte Carlo where Mrs van Hopper spies Maxim de Winter, whose somewhat tragic story precedes him: he is a widower and lives at the grand estate of Manderley, now all alone. Mrs van Hopper arranges a meeting with Maxim de Winter which also introduces the protagonist to him. When Mrs van Hopper falls ill, the protagonist and Maxim de Winter start to spend more time with each other and finally he asks her to marry him. But living in Manderley, where the shadow of Maxim’s deceased wife Rebecca hangs over everything and her housekeeper Mrs Danvers makes sure it doesn’t leave, proves quite a challenge for them.
I’ve been meaning to read Rebecca for a while, and despite its renown I actually managed to stay spoiler-free – which was a good thing. But even if I had known more about how things would go down, I doubt that I would have been any less engaged in the book. Rebecca is a classic for a reason, a hypnotic novel that doesn’t let go of you easily.
Sense and Sensibility the Screenplay and Diaries collects Emma Thompson‘s screenplay for the 1995 film, adapted from Jane Austen’s novel, as well as Thompson’s diaries for the production of the film.
Finished on: 20.7.2019
I really love the film (I’m rather surprised that I never reviewed it here), so when I heard that the script was published, and that there was even additional material in the form of Thompson’s diaries for the production, I knew I had to track it down. And I’m absolutely glad I did. The script itself is an extremely nice read, but the real treat are the diaries – a warm look behind the scenes with a wonderful sense of humor.
Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (literally: The Russian is a person who loves birch trees) is the first novel by Olga Grjasnowa. [It is originally in German and I don’t think it has been translated into English yet.]
Finished on: 12.6.2019
Content Note: bimisia, (critical treatment of) antisemitism
Mascha came to German when she was just a child, her Jewish family originally from what is now Azerbaijan and used to be the Soviet Union when they left. Now Mascha makes the best use of her talent for languages and is working to be a translator at the UN, achieving high grades and receiving scholarships that bring her to many cities. Mascha seems to have made it, but underneat that shiny success story lies her trauma – from the pogroms in Baku that her family fled from, from the loss of her great love Elischa. But that trauma can’t remain hidden forever.
Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt is a challenging debut novel – both for the author and her readers. But it is absolutely worth it to work your way through it.
Little Fires Everywhere is a novel by Celeste Ng.
Finished on: 29.5.2019
Content Note: abortion, (critical treatment of) racism
Elena Richardson rents a house to Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl. Mia is an artist and she and Pearl have always moved around a lot. The Richardsons – mother, father, four children around Pearl’s age – live the compelte opposite life and Pearl is fascinated with them. Both Mia and Pearl quickly become more than just tenants. All of their relationships are put to the test, though, when friends of the Richardsons want to adopt an Chinese-American baby and Mia tries to help the biological mother keep it.
Little Fires Everywhere is wonderfully observed, realistic and well-written novel that maybe didn’t touch me quite as much as Everything I Never Told You, but I still loved it a whole lot.
Die verwechselten Töchter [literally: The Exchanged Daughters] is an epistolary novel by Maria Anna Sager (also written as Maria Anna Sagar).
Finished on: 26.4.2019
[You can read it here in German.]
In a rather poor neighborhood, two girls are born at almost exactly the same time, and both are called Klara. Their mothers are fast friends, and the two girls grow up inseparable and often indistinguishable. When the mother of the older Klara is called away by circumstances to acquire a more affluent position, both Klaras remain with the mother of the younger Klara. When the older Klara’s mother calls for her daughter a few years later, the younger Klara’s mother hopes to find a better life for her daughter and sends the younger Klara in the older Klara’s stead – a decision that causes troubles for all of them.
Die verwechselten Töchter is an almost forgotten classic of Austrian literature, one of the first (epistolary) novels by a woman to be published at all in German. And it is still a very good read that I can absolutely recommend.