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Friday, March 21st 2008 : "Reading the World"
I've been sent a lot of review copies of translated fiction in the last couple of months and now that RED BONES is finally finished, at least until my editor comes back from honeymoon, I've had time to read them. They're a wonderfully varied and exciting mix of authors new to me and old favourites.
I'd read Hakkan Nesser's BORKMAN'S POINT and loved it; I got completely caught out by the surprise ending, though some of my friends saw it coming a mile off. I couldn't get so worked up about the latest, THE RETURN. Although I still love the central character, the generic European setting started to annoy me and I found the ending slightly ridiculous.
The next books on my 'to be read' pile were titles by another Swede, Mari Jungstedt, UNSEEN and UNSPOKEN. Her books are set on the island of Gotland which lies off the country's east coast and each is set in a different season. Wonder if she's planning a quartet??? I enjoyed the books for their straight-forward story-telling and the atmospheric setting but I found that the translation really lets them down. The dialogue especially is very flat and clunky.
It was with great joy then, that I moved on to an old favourite Andrea Camilleri, who sets his books in Sicily. I love detective Salvo Montalbano. He's irreverent, funny, passionate about good food and wine. These are books for cold, grey Northern days. If the plotting isn't brilliant it doesn't matter because the warmth and humour of the character is cheering in itself. And the translation by New York poet Stephen Sartarelli is witty, fluent and a joy to read.
Now to the most extraordinary book on the pile: Karin Fossum's BROKEN. I've enjoyed Fossum's work for years, since her first novel DON'T LOOK BACK. That is my kind of crime novel: character-based, atmospheric, with a nicely ambiguous ending. I admire her courage. No two books have the same style. But I didn't think I'd enjoy BROKEN. It doesn't feature Fossum's central character Sejer, and even worse it seemed to have literary pretensions. I can't stand crime writers with literary pretensions. Then I started reading and I couldn't stop. Karin will be at Crime Fest in Bristol in June and I can't wait to discuss the book with her.
Posted by Ann at 07:21 PM GMT