Another big reading month for me in which the summer book bingo happening at work continued to be the prime motivating factor. Needless to say, I’ve got some catching up to do this fall for other reading challenges!
August was Women in Translation Month. I was able to read two books by women in translation, but they were not ones on my initial TBR list. I had pulled out a stack of three Scandinavian books – a Norwegian one, a Swedish one, and a Danish one – but none of them were the ones I ended up reading. I did begin the Norwegian one but had to set it aside because it wasn’t working for me at the time. Instead I picked up a collection of short stories by an Argentinian author which hit the spot. And then I moved on to a different Norwegian author with a book that unexpectedly met a prompt for my 2023 Nordic Literature Reading Challenge. Both of those were great reads, and I look forward to revisiting the original stack this fall.
Bonus for the month, I did recommend the prompt “A book by a woman in translation” for the summer book bingo at work. I was happy to know that I encouraged others to read women in translation this summer.
How did your summer reading go?
El Deafo by Cece Bell (2014) 📖
I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but they’re a great change of pace when I want to mix up my reading a bit. This is an autobiographical “only slightly fictionalized” (author’s own words) account of a girl who becomes deaf due to illness and comes to terms with her disability by thinking of herself as the superhero, El Deafo. I had high hopes for this one, but I was a bit disappointed. I definitely appreciated the window into an unknown world by seeing and hearing the world from the main character’s eyes and ears (well done through catchy illustrations and dialogue muffled through the hearing aide), but certain aspects rubbed me the wrong way. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
- #DiversityAcrossGenres: Disability
- Summer Book Bingo: A graphic novel
Sula by Toni Morrison (1973) 📖
This book has been on my shelf for years, along with Beloved, and I’m so glad to finally have read it. Taking place in a small Ohio town in 1920s-1960s, it follows two Black women, Nel and Sula, from childhood into adulthood. Raised very differently and having very different personalities, they are best friends growing up but take very different paths as they grow older. Nel stays in their hometown, and Sula ventures out in the world only to return later. It’s a complicated friendship made even more fraught with Sula’s actions upon her return. It’s a short book; the story of the town and their friendship is told in snippets from year to year. Morrison’s writing is beautifully direct. The setting and characters really come to life. I greatly enjoyed Sula and look forward to reading Beloved soon. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Summer Book Bingo: A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t & a book about best friends
- Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America (Ohio, USA)
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (1998) 📖
This was a fun coming of age story about best friends who grow up spending summer vacations together. It all begins at the end of 6th grade when popular Caitlin unexpectedly invites reserved Victoria to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer. It is a world of privilege and freedom that Victoria is unaccustomed to. One summer becomes every summer, and Victoria becomes more and more a member of Caitlin’s family. Their friendship is strong and complicated. They end up following separate paths after high school, but still staying in touch and eventually reuniting. I really enjoyed the summer setting, nostalgic feeling, and complicated relationships all around. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
As I wrote this review of Summer Sisters, I noticed striking similarities between this and Sula — best friends, different personalities, complicated friendship, different paths, reunification, betrayal — but of course in very different worlds. Always fun to discover overlap between reads!
- Summer Book Bingo: Re-read a favorite book & a book about best friends & a screen adaptation (soon to be)
- Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America (Massachusetts, USA)
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (2022) 🎧
(Narrated by Charlie Thurston)
I loved everything about this book. It takes place in Southern Appalachia in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Demon is telling his own story from some time in the future – but it’s also the story of whole region of the US. He was born to an addicted, single mother who couldn’t take care of him. He ends up in the foster care system where nothing is easy or good for him, but he is resilient and perseveres. Thankfully, he also has some stable people in the background. Demon has a talent for drawing and with his perspective on the world and Kingsolver’s writing talent, the setting of Appalachia and the people’s struggles really come to life. His story is heartbreaking but also at times humorous and overall inspiring. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was fantastic. The reading experience gets bonus points for teaching me about melungeons and providing insight into the toll of the opioid crisis on rural America. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Summer Book Bingo: A book recommended by a colleague & a book read read at the same time as someone else
- Book Voyage: Read Around the World: North America (Southern Appalachia, USA)
Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin (2015) 📖
(Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, 2022)
This was a unique and engaging collection of short stories, a welcomed pivot from what I had been reading. Each story was about an ordinary household in which something unsettling occurred. There was no horror or terror, but instead a creeping feeling of dread and unease – grandparents playing naked outside, woman going out alone at night, young girl walking off with a stranger. I always wondered, How will this end? One thing I was oping for but didn’t get was a sense of place. Though the author is from Argentina, only a couple of stories mentioned anything specific to place (pesos and street names). But it’s understandable since the themes of the short stories are universal and not specific to a place. (Winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Translated Literature) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Summer Book Bingo: A book by a woman in translation
Seven Days in August by Brit Bildøen (2014) 📖
(Translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook, 2016)
This novel takes place in Oslo eight years after the horrendous July 22, 2011, terrorist attack on a youth camp on the island of Utøya. A mother is still struggling with the loss of her daughter. The extent of the grief and sorrow becomes apparent as she and her husband deal with a series of unlucky events that happen over the course of a week — a tick bite, a storm, a fall, among other things. Throughout the days, details trigger memories of the day her daughter was killed. It’s about how grief takes hold and never completely goes away and affects the relationships around you. The main characters, their relationship, and the situations they find themselves in are so realistically portrayed. It’s an engaging, page-turning reading experience despite its heavy and difficult subject matter.
I especially appreciated the very strong sense of place. Besides the terrorist attack being a main element, the story touches upon many issues particular to Oslo, like neighborhood changes, the effects of climate change, and the local the Roma population. Also the main character works at MUNCH, the new Munch museum. (Interestingly, though, the new Munch museum wasn’t even completed yet when the book was published in 2014. It opened in October 2021.) The book had unique timing. Originally published in 2014, only 3 years after the terrorist attack, the story actually takes place in 2019 which is 8 years after the attack.
- Nordic Literature Reading Challenge 2023: A longlist nominee for the Dublin Lit Award / Norway
- Book Voyage: Read Around the World: Europe (Norway)
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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