The end of another month is upon us and it’s been quite a month. I started my new job which I’m really enjoying and being back on the tube for 2 hours a day, my reading has really taken off again, huzzah!
I also went to a country music festival where I got to see two of my favourite acts – Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts who were both awesome and a week later I was still buzzing!
But you want to hear about what I’ve been reading right? Well a few weeks back I decided that I wanted to read more foreign literature and I vowed to read at least one book from a new country each month. This month I managed two. I was already most of the way through one when I decided to make this vow but I felt like it would be cheating to use only that one so I went out and tracked down a second entry for March’s map and here they are.
First up was a crime novel from Iceland – Someone to Watch Over Me (Horfðu á mig) by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (translated by Philip Roughton), number 5 in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series. Part ghost story, part detective fiction, part commentary on the effect of the financial crash in Iceland, this book had plenty going for it.
The story has a number of strands which twine together slowly as more layers of the plot are unveiled but at its heart it features a young man, Jakob, who has Down’s syndrome and is imprisoned for burning down his sheltered accommodation and killing five people. Thora is a lawyer employed by a convicted paedophile (and one of the creepiest characters I’ve encountered) to prove Jakob’s innocence. But what does the ghost haunting Berglind and her son tie in? And just what does the residence’s supervisor have to hide?
I loved the way all these elements wove together but what I liked most was that it avoided so many of the clichés often seen with crime fiction. Having said that I felt that the ending was a bit anti-climactic until the very last page sent a chill down my spine that is. I hadn’t read any of the other books in the Thora series but I will certainly look out for them from now on.
My second international offering this month is The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly (마당을 나온 암탉) written by Hwang Sun-Mi and translated by Kim Chi-Young and originally published in the Democratic Republic of Korea.
Choosing this book was a bit of a no-brainer if I’m honest – I’ve had a soft spot for South Korea since taking up Tae Kwon Do many years ago and one of my dearest wishes is to own a chicken or two. Since this book united two of my loves it was a must-read!
The titular hen is Sprout, a battery chicken who wants nothing more than to be allowed to sit on one of her egg rather than have them snatched away from her as soon as they’re laid. From her coop she can see the other animals prancing around the barnyard and raising their own offspring and she yearns to join them. Alas, when she makes it out of the coop, life in the wild isn’t everything she dreamed it would be but Sprout is relentlessly optimistic and finds a friend in Straggler, a wild mallard with a broken wing who might know how to make Sprout’s dreams come true.
This story has been described as a modern-day fable and it certainly has a lot to say about the value and true meaning of family and the importance of being willing to persevere if you want to follow your dreams. It’s only a short tale but perfectly formed.
So with those two additions here’s the updated map and pie chart: