Like most years, September started with sunshine and ended with rain. Lots of it. We had another weekend in London and a week off work doing DIY, but the most book-related non-reading activity I did was going to see Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort of) at Bristol Old Vic. It’s an excellent production, using a small all-female cast to great effect. It made me laugh and it made me think, which isn’t bad going for a play based on a book I don’t especially like.
Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police by Carmen Bugan
My Romania selection for the EU Reading Challenge is a memoir of life in the 1970s and the 1980s when your father is protesting the Communist government. Bugan is a poet, which gives this book a clean, thoughtful tone that gels well with the bizarre and terrifying details of life under the eye of the Securitate.
Space Dogs: the Story of the Celebrated Canine Cosmonauts by Martin Parr and Richard Hollingham
Part art book, part popular science, Space Dogs: the Story of the Celebrated Canine Cosmonauts combines Martin Parr’s photographs of his collection of Russian space dog memorabilia with text by science journalist Richard Hollingham. I really enjoyed this quirky little book and I think it will make a great gift for any dog and/or space history lovers.
Dry Season by Gabriela Babnik
My Slovenia book for the EU Reading Challenge opens with two people in bed together in a hotel room in Ouagadougou. They are Ana – a 62-year-old Slovene artist here on holiday – and Ismael, a 27-year-old local who spent much of his life living on the street. It’s an unlikely pairing and one that doesn’t seem destined to last, but as the narrative alternates between their points of view, we discover things they have in common. This is a lyrical but difficult read.
Letter to my Mother by Georges Simenon
A million years ago, or maybe 20, I had to read a French novel for my A’ levels and I picked one of the Inspector Maigret murder mysteries by Georges Simenon. I think my French tutor called him the French Agatha Christie, which may or may not be fair. I laboured somewhat over reading that book, which may or may not be why this is the first time I’ve read Simenon since (in translation this time, of course). It wasn’t worth the wait. This is a letter Simenon wrote after his mother’s death, in part describing her life and in part trying to understand her as a person. Which sounds promising, but honestly I was a little bored.
Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall
My Poland book for the EU Reading Challenge is the fascinating true World War Two story of Izolda Regensberg, a Jewish woman whose history took her from the ghetto in Warsaw, to working for the Underground, to various workcamps and even Auschwitz. But we know early on that she survived, thanks to interspersed chapters about her attempts to communicate with her Israeli grandchildren. Language is key to this amazing story.