Literary trends on social media are the perfect blend of pop culture and literature. At the same time, they allow publishers and marketing people to talk about new books and bring attention to diverse voices. August is all about Women in Translation so today we will talk about three books that should be on your TBR pile.
Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante
If you haven’t jumped on #FerranteFever yet then this book is the perfect place to start. Delia has a complicated relationship with her mother, Amalia. But now that Amalia is dead and she is the only one available to deal with the aftermath, all the repressed emotions and memories about her mother are emerging. Through Delia, her uncle, her estranged father and a mysterious man named Caserta who is as much a place as he is a person, a shadowy image of Amalia emerges as a woman with a life outside of the domestic doldrums she was forced into. A short novel exploring the fraught relationship between a mother and a daughter, Troubling Love is the book to launch you into the unfulfilled lives of Ferrante’s women.
2. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Winner of the International Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2016, The Vegetarian is as much not about than what it is about. The elevator pitch to sell it to readers is that it is about a woman who suddenly decides to become a vegetarian much to the chagrin of her family. But, through three narratives, from the points of view of her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister-in-law, we see their attempts to understand her self destructive motives. But then, that is exactly it; in a patriarchal society, women are expected to justify all their decisions and when someone says no, there is violence. There are some graphic scenes of how she is forced to eat meat while on the other hand, at a wasteful dinner, “well-meaning” white people fetishise her decision to be a vegetarian. The author uses a sparse, terse prose that is as disturbing as it is meaningful and in a fantastic translation by Deborah Smith, The Vegetarian is a book that will haunt you long after you have read it.
3. Umami by Laia Jufresa
Umami by Laia Jufresa is one of those “quiet” but brilliant books that just make your heart melt. Through five perspectives, we are introduced to the lives of the people living in Bitter, Sour, Sweet, Salty and Umami, five houses in a complex in Mexico. I love the title because since umami is the fifth taste, something you cannot explain, this book is also umami for your literary tastes. My favourite story is the one following a widower who is grieving for his wife and how much he misses her. It is rare to see such beautiful portrayals of men who have lost a partner and long for them everyday. Another perspective follows that of a family of “almost six” who lose a child in a freak accident and how much that pain threads them all together. Sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami – this book is one you should read and then maybe pick it up again after you are done.