5 Translated Works I Recently Read (#2)

Since I’m hoping to read more translated fiction in 2018, I thought I would gather up reviews in a single post throughout the year. Hopefully you can find some titles that interest you! 

The White Book by Han Kang (Translated by Deborah White)

As I’m writing down my thoughts for Han Kang’s latest book, The White Book, I’m realizing that I don’t remember much about it. I do remember it starting out talking about things that are white, I remember it being about grief and suffering, life and death, and the human experience. I remember that there were beautiful photographs. I remember it being a very quick read, since there is a lot of white space in the book. I remember it being quite a bit different from the last work by Kang that I read, The Vegetarian, but it still having that feeling that it is a Han Kang book – her voice is definitely recognizable.

But in the end, I’m realizing that while this book was good, it might not be for everyone. It’s very much a concept book full of prose and poetry and photographs, and it does have a general theme throughout, but I feel like unless you’re a huge fan of Han Kang, this probably won’t be the most memorable book. I did feel a wave of grief come over me as I read the stories of Kang’s sister, who died at birth, but I also had a hard time connecting with a lot of the book. I found that the photographs, while beautiful, didn’t seem to have any connection to the content, and probably wouldn’t have been missed if they weren’t included. Ultimately, I would have to say that if you’re looking to just try out Han Kang’s writing, maybe you should try The Vegetarian or Human Acts first.

The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen (translated by Tiina Nunnally)

Alright, so I of course have heard of Hans Christian Andersen (I have children who love Frozen so I don’t live under a rock), but I haven’t ever read anything by him – at least, not that I can remember. And I think I would remember because this collection of stories is really, really messed up. I recall Andersen being a children’s author, yes? HOW ARE THESE STORIES FOR CHILDREN?

The stories are definitely creative but man are they messed up. They don’t really have any messages for children, or other readers, like stories would nowadays, and some of his endings reminded me of the Brothers Grimm. I also both liked and disliked the writing style of the stories – they’re written in a very chatty way, like someone is sitting next to you telling you a story, but I think what I would’ve preferred is some more descriptions and less telling of everything. There were also endings that came after pretty much no tension and had me saying, “What? That’s the end?”

I honestly don’t know how Andersen is so popular because when I think about fairytales, I think of so many other beautiful fairytales that aren’t quite so morbid. So while I enjoyed this a little bit, it’s definitely not one I could see myself sharing with my children or anything – or even reading again.

Circe and the Cyclops by Homer (translated by Robert Faegles)

Even since I started watching Jean’s BookTube channel over at Jeans Bookishthoughts, I have been very very interested in antiquity. She talks with such passion of the Greek myths and Greek stories that you probably only hear about if you take a class in university. I did take one of these classes while in school and thought it was interesting, but I think Jean makes it sound even more interesting, and not only that — accessible.

Whenever I thought about stories by Homer or Dante or any of the ancient Greeks that are still read today, I always had this idea that the stories would be hard to read, hard to understand, not to mention dull and boring. BUT I decided to dive into this one one night and thought it was absolutely delightful! I loved this excerpt of Odysseus and his crew – and learning what a terrible person Odysseus was. I loved meeting Circe and going into the cave. This book was just so much fun! I read the whole thing out loud to myself and loved the flow of it and the way the whole story was constructed.

I may have had reservations before about reading The Odyssey, thinking it would be boring or unreadable, but reading this tiny little excerpt has made me very eager to try it out one of these days!

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor)

I was so excited to read this book after seeing it on so many reading lists for the winter! It had been released in the U.K. as Lullaby and The Perfect Nanny everywhere else (personally, I prefer the U.K. title, as usual) and it just sounded like the perfect thriller, though completely horrifying since it opens up with the narrator saying that the baby was dead and the other child was going to be dead soon. What a gripping way to start a book!!

However, in terms of this being a thriller, I think that the opening was probably the most thrilling part of the book. We do get into the mind of this nanny that the family hires and it was interesting to see how she could just go from 0 to 180 in terms of mood with the children. As a mother, it reinforced that all kids can press buttons but also horrified me in the way that this nanny wanted to react.

As I said, I was so excited to read this, but something was missing from this story. It was a very intriguing idea and I think it was just executed poorly. I finished this wanting a lot more, and there probably could have been more, since it was a fairly short book.

As a side note, I read in another review that this story was written based on an event that actually happened in France, which makes this story even more creepy. And really, if you look at this story as a book about the people we invite into our homes, it really asks the question of how well do we know people? Especially the people we get to watch our children?

Gooseberries by Anton Chekhov (translated by Robert Wilks)

This was a book that was included in my 80-set of Penguin Little Black Classics. I picked it up to read after seeing that Katie from Books and Things had reread it and said how much she loved Chekhov’s writing. I had never read any Chekhov, but the way I move through my classics tends to be based on what other people are reading or current read-alongs, so I picked it up.

This was a collection of three short stories and a really nice introduction to Chekhov’s writing. I loved the first story, The Kiss, and thought it was hilarious how this one soldier who has a brief encounter in a coat room with a mysterious person (who was obviously there for someone else) suddenly starts dreaming up this life with this person, nearly falling in love. This was my favourite story in the book, but Chekhov really has some interesting scenarios, some great characters, and he can really pack a punch in one short story. I look forward to not only rereading these in the future, but also trying out some more Chekhov.

Have you read any translated fiction lately? What are some of your favourite translated works? Have you read any of these authors? 


Top 5 Books I Read This Past Winter!

Winter is one of my FAVOURITE times to read! I know there are a lot of Canadians – or Albertans, at least – who really hate the winter, but I think that it’s the perfect season for reading. We live out on an acreage and during the summer there’s always LOTS of work to be done outside. While it’s nice to sit back with a book, there’s probably at least 5 things that need to be done so I always feel guilty spending my free time reading in the summer. But in the winter, the world is frozen and there’s only so much I can do inside, so why not relax with a book?

I read some great books over the last three months and it was so hard to pick just 5 that were my favourites, but here they are!


Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson

Oh this was such a fun book! Miss Pettigrew was a great character and I fell in love with her immediately. I might not have read this book so soon had I not seen the movie was airing on TV, but I’m glad that I finally got to it. It’s definitely a book that reinforced why I’m reading more classics – they’re not all dull and boring books written by old white dudes, but they can be fun and inspiring and make a person want to find more gems just like this one.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My second Agatha Christie book and far from my last. I read my first Agatha Christie in the fall and fell in love with her writing style and had to try out this standalone book that I’ve only read adaptations of. This book was dark and mysterious and everything that I wanted it to be. I love books that take place on islands, especially mysteries where someone (or lots of someones) disappears – and with this book, the ending was a whole lot of whaaaat?!?! By now I think I’ve read 3 or 4 Agatha Christie books and I love her writing so much. This is a great book to start with if you haven’t read any of her books!

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

This is a book that I had had my eye on for such a long time, partly because of the name of the book (I mean, I love kitchens) and also because of the author’s name, which grabbed me the first time I saw it. I’m so happy I finally picked up this little volume from the library because it was such a heartfelt and sad read – actually, two reads in one since it also included a story called Midnight Shadow which was just as good as Kitchen. I highly recommend this if you want to get into reading more translations.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Normally when I read books that have been really hyped up, I have a tendency to not like them. However, I connected with this book so much and absolutely adored it! Being someone who also suffers from anxiety, I completely understood Eleanor – or at least, I thought I did because Honeyman weaves such a great story that there are reasons for why Eleanor is how she is and through this story of friendship and stepping outside of your comfort zone, we get to know – and fall in love with – Eleanor Oliphant. Such a great read!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This is the only book on this list that I read at the end of 2017. It was my very first Daphne du Maurier book and I’m so glad that I finally dove into it! I had only heard of this book through other forms of entertainment – in movies, or TV, or in other books – but it’s one that I knew I wanted to read eventually. Towards the end of last year I decided to just buy a copy and it felt like the perfect winter read – and it totally was! I loved this story of “the new wife” heading to Manderley and feeling like she can’t compare to the old wife, Rebecca. This story was extremely well written, creepy, atmospheric, and it made me completely fall in love with du Maurier’s writing that I now have 5 or 6 of her other books on my shelf to read.

What were some of your favourite winter reads? Have you read any that were on my list? What were your thoughts? Do you have any books you wish you had gotten to this past winter? 

[Book Talk] Things To Do When It’s Raining by Marisa Stapley

Book Details:

Format: eARC & Paperback
Source: Publisher & Purchased (& Won!)
Read: March 2018


Two families, three generations and a lie that almost destroys them. Is their love strong enough to heal old wounds?

Mae Summers and Gabe Broadbent grew up together in the idyllic Summers’ Inn, perched at the edge of the St. Lawrence River. Mae was orphaned at the age of six and Gabe needed protection from his alcoholic father, so both were raised under one roof by Mae’s grandparents, Lilly and George. Their childhood friendship quickly developed into a first love–a love that was suddenly broken by Gabe’s unexpected departure. Mae grew up, got over her heartbreak and started a life for herself in New York City. After more than a decade, Mae and Gabe find themselves pulled back to Alexandria Bay. Hoping to find solace within the Summers’ Inn, Mae instead finds her grandparents in the midst of decline with their past unraveling around her. A lifetime of secrets stands in the way of this unconventional family’s happiness. Will they be able to reclaim the past and come together, or will they remain separate islands?

From the bestselling author of Mating for Life comes a powerful story about guilt, forgiveness and the truth about families: that we can choose them, just as we choose to love.

My Thoughts

Thank you to Harlequin and Graydon House Books for sending me an eARC of this book for review! I also purchased a copy AND then won a signed copy in a contest, so I guess I’m set!

This was my first Marissa Stapley book and I thought it was very good! It wasn’t quite what I was expecting – I think what I wanted was something a bit lighter, something with a bit more resolution, and something that would stick with me a bit more.

The first thing I will say is that I loved how this book was laid out – the different parts with the raindrops on the pages were so beautiful, and I loved the inclusion of Virginia’s ideas of things to do at the inn when it rains. I also really loved the setting – I will always enjoy books that take place at inns or by water. I read this book in the winter, but it would be a great book to read in the middle of summer by a lake.

I enjoyed the characters in the beginning but started to feel frustrated by them. This story is a perfect example of something that would be resolved if people would just talk to one another. Actually, when I finished reading, I couldn’t help but think of lyrics from a song by The National that go “you said we’ll only die of lonely secrets” because that seemed to be how everything was going – no one really talked to each other, so nothing was really resolved.

I’m fairly certain that most people will love this book, but it just wasn’t a book for me. I had a hard time really connecting with any of the characters, mainly because they drove me nuts for most of the book. Not only that, but everyone had their own story and with no one talking to one another, it just made for a very frustrating read.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I won a signed copy of this book, but I also received a signed copy of Stapley’s debut book, Mating For Life. This book might not have been what I was expecting and probably not my favourite of the genre, but I still enjoyed Stapley’s writing and plan to read her debut book soon.