Sunday, 31 March 2019

Enigma Variations by Andre Aciman

From infatuation to obsession

Enigma Variations is a beautifully written novel from Andre Aciman (of Call Me by your Name fame) that charts the loves and losses of one man, Paul. What begins with boyish infatuation becomes sheer idolatry and vivid obsession as the novel moves through the key relationships that come to define his identity. 

Paul is an interesting and well crafted character best understood as an adolescent but as he grows up into a young man and then into middle age his obsessions become ever more self indulgent.

Beyond the first part, set on a stunning Italian island, this is a glacially slow novel with ‘variations’ that lack rhythm and cadence. The subtlety that Aciman uses in places is as gorgeous as in Call Me By Your Name but Enigma Variations ultimately leaves you longing for more. Luckily we don't have long to wait for Elio and Oliver's return in the Call Me By Your Name sequal 3⭐️

Enigma Variations by Andre Aciman published Faber and Faber 288 pages

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

From infatuation to obsession

Like many contemporary Japanese novels If Cats Disappeared from the World packs a huge punch for such a slim novel. Also like many Japanese novels, there are cats.

Like Christopher Marlowe's Faustus or Aladdin in The Arabian Nights, the book is based on a simple question of morality; what would you give up for an extra day of your life? In this case a Hawaiian shirt wearing incarnation of the Devil poses this question to a terminally ill man. 

Before we get to living without cats Kawamura considers life without watches and mobile phones each time revealing more about what it means to be alive. This is simple stuff eloquently presented by a great storyteller.

Whilst not a joyful premise If Cat's Disappeared From the World is remarkably positive and life affirming. If it doesn't lead to you rethinking your priorities in life nothing will!

With more than a million copies sold at home in Japan a film adaptation from released in 2016. 4⭐️

If Cats Dissapeared from the World by Genki Kawamura published Picador 144 pages

2016 Film Adaptation

Sunday, 17 March 2019

A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos

Read now before the inevitable Netflix series

Imaginative young adult fantasy fiction with more than a nod to Philip Pullman and Studio Ghibli. The world Dabos creates is rich, enticing and completely immersive. Read now before the inevitable Netflix series. 

Originally published in France as 'Les Fiances de L'Hiver', the novel is Book One of the Mirror Visitor Quartet. Expect more from the expert pen of Christelle Dabos 4⭐️
A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos  (translated by Hildegarde Serle) published Europa Editions, 468 pages

Book Two in the series published in English May 2019

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Inspired retelling of the classic legends

"Before the beginning there was nothing"

The great Norse myths and legends continue to inspire modern storytellers but in this collection Neil Gaiman retells the tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and Freya through his own idiosyncratic lens.

Using prose poetry as his source material is no small feat but this anthology reads like modern fantasy fiction. 4⭐️

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman published by Bloomsbury, 304 pages


The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi

Chilling noir meets B-movie horror

When road trips in Iceland go wrong! Bragi, critically acclaimed poet and writer on his home frozen turf, chucks every noir genre trope at this story about four friends lost in the icy wilderness but the result is over cooked.

With more than a nod to early Stephen King The Ice Lands delivers chilling Nordic Noir in places but depends to B-movie horror in others. Despite some well developed characters this is ultimately over blown 3⭐️

The Ice Lands by Steinar Bragi published by Macmillon, 336 pages

When road trips in Iceland go wrong!
Original Icelandic cover art

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Beautifully observed human behaviour

"You’ve taken three years of my life. You will not take one more day”

Takes you to the limits of human endurance to ask the question; to what lengths would you go to survive?

A startling tale of one couples experience in the death camps. Deeply thought provoking and challenging but ultimately rewarding. 4 ⭐️

The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris published by Zaffre, 228 pages