A decade! Who would have thought it? This blog has come a long way since I lost that notebook with my reading notes, and decided to store them, henceforth, in a place where I wouldn’t lose them. Many good things have happened along the way – far too many to list here. Highlights must include German Literature Month (6 years and counting), meeting online booklovers in the flesh (I hope to meet more of you some time in the future) and gaining access to special places and events that would have been off limits otherwise. I was also quoted in the Wall Street Journal!!
But let’s not forget the authors, their publishers, and WordPress without which this blog would not have existed.
I now have a books read index of over 1000. I recently reviewed this and I was struck by the following:
– the number of books I read due to the recommendations, readalongs and initiatives of fellow bloggers. This community we have is valuable, not only to ourselves but to the world of literature at large. Forgive the namedropping here but, as Sebastian Barry once said to me, as I was staring into his deep brown eyes, trying not to swoon: Literary bloggers are changing the face of reading. (This was a book-signing and THE special literary festival moment that will probably never, ever be surpassed.)
– how few I have forgotten. There are some – those that I think are best forgotten – but they are a rare few. I can remember most in sufficient detail to discuss. So the time spent reviewing for this blog is not lost time. In fact reviewing makes me think deeper and appreciate more.
There are also a number of titles I absolutely adored but did not receive the attention or the praise I think they deserved. So, as a treat for yourselves, seeing as you’ve been putting up with me for 10 whole years, I have three of these to giveaway. My thanks to Saraband, Pushkin Press and Alma Books for making this blogiversary giveaway possible.
1) As I’m based in Scotland, a Scottish novel first, although there’s not much Scotland in it. Regardless it really is An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful.
An eminent British writer returns to the resort hotel in the Japanese mountains where he once spent a beautiful, snowed-in winter. It was there he fell in love and wrote his best-selling novel, The Waterwheel, accusing America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we learn more about his earlier life, however as a student in Bloomsbury, involved with a famous American painter we realise that he too is in denial, trying to escape past events that are now rapidly catching up with him. A sweeping novel of East and West, love and war, truths and denials.
2) You all know by now that my heart belongs to Germany, and so I’ve chosen what is quite possibly my favourite German 20th-century classic. (Well it might tie with Buddenbrooks.) Ulrich Plenzdorf’s The New Sorrows of Young W.
Edgar W., teenage dropout, unrequited lover, unrecognized genius – and dead – tells the story of his brief, spectacular life.
It is the story of how he rebels against the petty rules of communist East Germany to live in an abandoned summer house, with just a tape recorder and a battered copy of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther for company. Of his passionate love for the dark-eyed, unattainable kindergarten teacher Charlie. And of how, in a series of calamitous events (involving electricity and a spray paint machine), he meets his untimely end.
Absurd, funny and touching, this cult German bestseller, now in a new translation, is both a satire on life in the GDR and a hymn to youthful freedom.
3) Finally, The Scent of Lemon Leaves, a Spanish award-winning novel which took me completely by surprise. I’ve loaned my proof copy a few times and all who have read it loved it. Whoever wins this has an extra-special treat in store, because Alma Books has generously donated the last copy of the first edition hardback. (And I’m a tinsy bit jealous.)
Having left her job and boyfriend, thirty-year-old Sandra decides to stay in a village on the Costa Blanca in order to take stock of her life and find a new direction. She befriends Karin and Fredrik, an elderly Norwegian couple, who provide her with stimulating company and take the place of the grandparents she never had. However, when she meets Julián, a former concentration-camp inmate who has just returned to Europe from Argentina, she discovers that all is not what it seems and finds herself involved in a perilous quest for the truth.
As well as being a powerful account of self-discovery and an exploration of history and redemption, The Scent of Lemon Leaves is a sophisticated and nail-biting page-turner by one of Spain’s most accomplished authors.
Let me know which book(s) you’d like to win in comments. UK entrants only. The giveaway will close on Monday 13.02.2017, so that I can send the Pushkin Press title out to coincide with Pushkin Press fortnight. The excitement continues. Long may it last.