Maclehose Press

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To Cook a Bear by Mikael Niemi (transl Deborah Bragen-Turner): To the North…

Mikael Niemi’s To Cook a Bear was one of those books I dithered about, historical crime fiction not really being my kind of thing, but a combination of the publisher – Maclehose Press whose books are reliably good – and its Swedish setting persuaded me to take the plunge. Set in the far north, Niemi’s …

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The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes (transl. Jamie Bulloch): Marching to Fortress Europe

Timur Vermes is clearly not a man to shy away from controversy. His sharp, very funny satire, Look Who’s Back, nailed the internet’s potential for political manipulation with admirable, if unsettling, prescience when Hitler wakes up with a bad headache in 2011 and quickly becomes a YouTube star. The Hungry and the Fat takes on …

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Abigail by Magda Szabó (transl. Len Rix): Coming of age in 1940s Hungary

I’ve yet to read Magda Szabó’s The Door despite having enjoyed both Katalin Street and Iza’s Ballad. Abigail is very different from either of those, not least in its length, but it comes billed as the most popular of her novels in her native Hungary. Set in a girls’ boarding school, it’s about Gina whose …

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The Cheffe by Marie NDiaye (transl. Jordan Stump): A culinary enigma

Several things attracted me to Marie NDiaye’s The Cheffe: I’ve a weakness for novels about food, given its author and subject I expected a healthy streak of feminism and there was the promise of an unreliable narrator. My liking for those may be even greater than my predilection for foodie fiction. NDiyae’s novel is the …

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All Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay: Families and how to survive them

I was initially attracted to Elizabeth Hay’s memoir for the same reason I read Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: I’d enjoyed several of her novels very much, in particular Late Nights on Air. Truth be told, though, aren’t we all fascinated by other people’s families, perhaps looking for similarities with …

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Katalin Street by Madga Szabó (transl. Len Rix): The past is another country

I’ve yet to read The Door, Madga Szabó’s best known novel, and I made the mistake of reading Iza’s Ballad on holiday, failing to give it the quiet attention it needed. Nothing to distract me from Katalin Street, enjoyable or otherwise. First published in 1969, it explores the aftermath of the Second World War through …

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The Tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel (transl. Euan Cameron): Death, grief and hope

If you haven’t yet come across Philippe Claudel’s books you may know his work from I Loved You So Long starring Kristin Scott Thomas. Ranging from Parfums, a sensuous fragrance memoir, to Monsieur Linh and His Child, one of the saddest pieces of fiction I’ve read, his writing is as elegantly understated as his movies, …

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One Clear Ice-cold January Morning at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century by Roland Schimmelpfennig (transl. Jamie Bulloch): A wolf takes a walk

Impossible not to comment on that title which makes the old bookseller in me wonder just how much it will be mangled in customer enquiries. I’m sure the publishers breathed a sigh of relief that Twitter have extended their 140-character limit, too. That said, it was the title which attracted me to this novella along …

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The House with the Stained-glass Window by Żanna Słoniowska (transl. Antonia Lloyd-Jones): A tale of three cities

Żanna Słoniowska’s novel is set in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, known as Lwów when it was part of Poland after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, then Lvov when it was in Soviet hands from the end of the Second World War until 1991. The House with the Stained-Glass Window tells the story of this fractured, …

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Madame Bovary of the Suburbs by Sophie Divry (transl. Alison Anderson): A Flaubert homage

It’s been a very long time since I read Flaubert’s tale of a doctor’s wife, bored to tears by provincial life and seeking diversion in adultery, but not so long since I read Sophie Divry’s slightly eccentric debut, The Library of Unrequited Love which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s always a risky business when an author …

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