Welcome to another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately”. The past month has been a ride around the world with visits to Albania, Colombia, and a dystopian, apocalyptic Scandinavia. Coincidentally, I went straight from reading about one country (Albania) during a turbulent decade to a totally different country on the other side of the world (Colombia) in the same decade, also a turbulent one, which is actually not an uninteresting thing to do. The first was a memoir; the second was a novel based on the author’s own experiences. Both were coming of age stories from the perspective of a young girl and provided interesting insight into a country I was not very familiar with at all.
This year’s 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge is underway. I recently completed a Finnish longlist nominee for the Dublin Literature Award from 2016. I continue to research and decide on selections for the other categories and welcome suggestions.
And finally, I’ve joined the reading challenge Diversity Across Genres hosted by @booksonadventures and @reading.and.roaming on Instagram. They’re challenging me to read more diversely both in terms of authors and genres. I’m beginning with the Bingo option and will expand as time allows.
What have you been reading lately?
Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi 📖🎧
(Narrated by Rachel Babbage and Lea Ypi)
Albania is a country I feel I should have known more about than just its location, so this was an eye-opening read. And it’s always interesting and inspiring to read about women’s experiences and contributions, whether small or large, here or abroad. In this memoir, Lea Ypi recounts her childhood in Albania in the 1980s and 1990s as the country went from being an isolated, communist regime to embracing a free market economy, and then in 1997 collapsing into civil war. Experiencing Albania’s tumultuous history through the eyes of Lea as a child and later a teenager was unique. The book was at times very philosophical. I enjoyed it more as a window into an unfamiliar country during recent history and as a coming of age story during said time and place.
- Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Eastern Europe (Albania)
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras 📖
Colombia in the 1990s was a time of unrest and violence when the country was under the influence of drug lord Pablo Escobar. In this novel, the main character, 7-year-old Chula, and her older sister are safe in their gated community in Bogotá, but their world begins to unravel when a live-in maid, 13-year-old Petrona from the city’s guerilla-occupied slum, begins to work for them. The story is told in alternating perspectives by Chula and the maid, a structure that I really enjoyed. It was a bit slow to begin with but the pace did pick up as the story went on and I finished quickly. Once again, another eye-opening glimpse into a country whose history I had little familiarity with.
- Book Voyage: Read Around the World: South America (Colombia)
- #DiversityAcrossGenres: Latine/x author, general fiction
Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta 🎧
(Narrated by Amy Landon)
Fascinatingly, the English and Finnish editions of this book were written simultaneously by the author. “I had to write in English initially, because I was submitting the early chapters as coursework for my university degree in the UK. However, I soon discovered that it was quite useful to get feedback from my Finnish writing group, so I ended up writing each chapter in parallel in English and Finnish.” (Source)
This story is set in the Scandinavian Union years in the future in a Europe ruled by China where climate change and rising seas have destroyed cities and fresh water is extremely scare and controlled by the military. Noria is a seventeen-year-old girl who has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a tea master. When her father dies, the responsibilities and secrets that came with that role become harder to maintain, and Noria has to make difficult decisions. Noria is a likable and engaging character, and the world building is interesting and creative (though there are some holes and unanswered questions about how their world really came to be in such a way). In particular, I enjoyed the scene of the Moonfeast, when a viewing of the Northern Lights was infused with Chinese culture and ocean-themed references. I could see it being a beautiful scene in a movie (which was released in the fall of 2022).
- Nordic Literature Reading Challenge 2023: A Dublin Lit Award longlist nominee (Finland)
What have you been reading lately?
By the way, if you’re interested in purchasing Scandinavian ebooks at a great discount, visit my Scandinavian Ebook Deals page. Some offers stay around for a long time, others only a short period. If anything looks intriguing, grab it before it’s gone.
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