Portobello Books

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Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (transl. Susan Bernofsky): Opening the doors

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a fervent Remainer but I’m not a blindly naïve one. The EU is an institution ripe for reform but I’ve long believed that international issues are best tackled together. We Europeans failed dismally, however, to find a humane solution to the 2015 refugee crisis, dumping responsibility on …

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The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami (transl. Allison Markin Powell): An endearing little gem

Three years ago I reviewed Hiromi Kawakami’s Strange Weather in Tokyo, praising the publishers for its splendid jacket and I’m delighted to see that they’ve used the same designer for The Nakano Thrift Shop. It’s not the only thing this quietly charming novel has in common with Kawakami’s previous book: it’s also narrated by an …

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The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (transl. Susan Bernofsky): The twentieth century through Eastern European eyes

I suspect The End of Days is a bit of a Marmite novel: you’ll either marvel at the way Jenny Erpenbeck deftly handles the constant shifts in narrative throughout this complex novel or you’ll despair of ever keeping track. Just as Jane Smiley sets out to tell the story of an American century through the …

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Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (transl. Allison Markin Powell): Judging a book and its cover

This slim, beautifully written novel begins one evening when, ordering a meal at a bar, Tsukiko sits next to an elderly man who chooses exactly the same dish. She recognises him as her teacher from her secondary school days but cannot remember his name saying nothing until he notices her. To cover her embarrassment she …

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