Review: At Dusk – Hwang Sok-yong

At DuskAt Dusk

Hwang Sok-yong

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925322934

RRP $27.99

 

Description:

In the evening of his life, a wealthy man begins to wonder if he might have missed the point.

 

Park Minwoo is, by every measure, a success story. Born into poverty in a miserable neighbourhood of Seoul, he has ridden the wave of development in a rapidly modernising society. Now the director of a large architectural firm, his hard work and ambition have brought him triumph and satisfaction. But when his company is investigated for corruption, he’s forced to reconsider his role in the transformation of his country.

 

At the same time, he receives an unexpected message from an old friend, Cha Soona, a woman that he had once loved, and then betrayed. As memories return unbidden, Minwoo recalls a world he thought had been left behind — a world he now understands that he has helped to destroy.

 

From one of Korea’s most renowned and respected authors, At Dusk is a gentle yet urgent tale about the things, and the people, that we give up in our never-ending quest to move forward.

 

 

My View:

Reading At Dusk transported me to another region, a different society and gave me a view of a little bit of history. Despite all the differences between the landscapes I live in and that of Hwang Sok-yong, there was a unifying theme surrounding aging, regret and hindsight.  As we age (I speak from my own aging experience) we do question decisions we made in the past, how things might have been and question what is important in our life now?   Reflection on relationships, life choices abound. Whether we live in Korea, London or Cowaramup Western Australia these themes surrounding ageing and the meaning of life apply universally; Hwang Sok-yong has subtly reminded us of our similarities, humanness and frailties.

A sobering read.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Forbidden Place – Susanne Jansson

The Forbidden Place

The Forbidden Place

Susanne Jansson

Translated by Rachel Wilson-Broyles

Hachette Australia

Mulholland Books

Hodder

ISBN: 9781473668553

RRP $ 29.99

 

Description:

In the North Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.

 

Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.

 

Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold – just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface…

 

Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?

An international sensation, THE FORBIDDEN PLACE is a darkly gripping tale of the stories we tell ourselves to survive, and the terrible consequences they can have.

 

 

My View:

My very first impression of this book was created by the wonderful cover art; it succinctly conveys the almost Gothic like chilliness that pervades the landscape, there is an almost palpable sense of mystery, unease and intrigue. Fog, mist, swamp, peat bogs, isolation… the landscape is such a huge character in this book.

 

Moody with finely drawn characters, spiced with a little history, sadness and spooky folk tales, these are the elements that provide the skeleton for this chilling narrative to build on. A great read and a wonderful debut, I look forward to reading more books by this author.

 

PS This is brilliantly and appears effortlessly, translated.

 

 

Review: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One – Raphaelle Giordano

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You only Have One

Raphaelle Giordano

Penguin Random House Australia

Bantam

ISBN: 9780143788997

 

Description:

At thirty-eight and a quarter years old, Camille has everything she needs to be happy, or so it seems. Why then does she feel as if happiness has slipped through her fingers? All she wants is to find the path to joy and fulfilment.

 

When Claude, a routinologist, offers his unique advice to help get her there, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. Camille’s journey is full of surprising, creative and richly meaningful lessons, as she sets out to transform her life and realize her dreams one step at a time . . .

 

A charming, feel-good and universal story of one woman’s journey from boredom and dissatisfaction to happiness and fulfilment – if you liked The Happiness Project, The Alchemist or Eat, Pray, Love, you’ll love this.

 

 

My View:

Clever, life affirming, at times humorous, thought provoking.

 

This is a charming, entertaining read that has many lessons to share. I enjoyed the journey that Camille embarks on and the clever twist at the conclusion.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The White Book – Han Kang

The White Book

The White Book

Han Kang

Translated by Deborah Smith

Allen & Unwin Australia

Portobello Books

ISBN: 9781846276293

 

Description:

From the winner of the Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian

 

Writing while on a residency in Warsaw, a city palpably scarred by the violence of the past, the narrator finds herself haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours after birth. A fragmented exploration of white things – the swaddling bands that were also her shroud, the breast milk she did not live to drink, the blank page on which the narrator herself attempts to reconstruct the story – unfolds in a powerfully poetic distillation.

 

As she walks the unfamiliar, snow-streaked streets, lined by buildings formerly obliterated in the Second World War, their identities blur and overlap as the narrator wonders, ‘Can I give this life to you?’. The White Book is a book like no other. It is a meditation on a colour, on the tenacity and fragility of the human spirit, and our attempts to graft new life from the ashes of destruction.

 

This is both the most autobiographical and the most experimental book to date from South Korean master Han Kang.

 

 

My View:

Experimental in presentation and design, economically written, no words wasted, emotions captured seemingly effortlessly, this is a stunning read, an emotional read.

 

Poignant beautiful prose – so personal, like reading someone else’s diary, someone who has a heart full of sadness (I hope that is not the reality, I hope that is just my imagination).

 

Post Script: The Accordionist – Fred Vargas

The Accordionist

The Accordionist

Three Evangelists Trilogy

Fred Vargas

Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

Harvill Secker

ISBN: 9781846559983

 

Description:

When two Parisian women are shockingly murdered in their homes, the police suspect young accordionist Clément Vauquer, who was seen outside both of the apartments in question. It seems on the surface like an open-and-shut case.

 

But now Clément has disappeared from public view. His likeness has appeared in the papers and detectives from Paris to Nevers are on his tail. To have a chance of proving his innocence, he seeks refuge with old Marthe, a former prostitute and the only mother figure he has known.

 

Marthe calls ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler to help Clément. But what Louis uncovers is anything but straightforward, and he must call on some unconventional friends to help him solve his most complex case yet. Not only must Louis try to prove Clément’s innocence, he must solve a fiendish riddle to lead him to the killer…

 

 

My View:

This is a great series – I love the quirky characters – Vargas characters are unique, interesting and empathetic, unlike any I have come across in the many many mystery/thrillers/crime fiction genres I have read – refreshing, a joy to read!

 

If you are feeling a little fatigued, a little less engaged, a little disenchanted with the crime fiction books you had read recently re-ignite that joy of reading by reading the Three Evangelists Trilogy – you will not be disappointed.

Post Script: Fatal Crossing – Lone Theils

Fatal Crossing

Fatal Crossing (Nora Sand #1)

Lone Theils

Charlotte Barslund (Translator)

Echo

Bonnier Publishing Australia

ISBN: 9781760406530

 

Description:

When a picture of two Danish girls who disappeared on a boat bound for England in 1985 surfaces in an old suitcase, journalist Nora Sand’s professional curiosity is immediately awakened.

 

Before she knows it, she is mixed up in the case of a serial killer serving a life sentence in a notorious prison. The quest to discover the truth about the missing girls may be more dangerous that she had ever imagined…

 

A fast-paced and skilfully plotted thriller’

Barry Forshaw

 

A candidate for the best crime novel of the year’

Krimi-Cirklen

 

 

My View:

What a great debut! This is a very credible and immensely satisfying read that had moments that remind me of actual crime that have occurred in Australia, specifically in Perth WA. I won’t share the details as I don’t want to influence your reading or give away any spoilers but after you have read it, tell me if anything in this novel resonated with crimes in your region.

Back to the review – I loved the protagonist, Nora, strong female leads are always a favourite in my reading; she is intelligent, passionate about her work, her life is extraordinary – we meet Nora who is a journalist, as she is conducting an interview with a war criminal: “The stories swirled around Nora’s head, one atrocity overtaking the next. Schoolchildren witnessing the gang rape of their teacher before they themselves were hacked to death with machetes. Massacres of villagers that went on until the murderers were too tired to life their arms and so they locked up the survivors with the corpses until the next day when the killing resumed…” (p1) A brutal  “hook” reminiscent of current news headlines that will have you squirming in your seat as you read, the honesty, brutality and inhumanity of the deeds pricking at your conscience.

I think we will be seeing more of this type of occupation and reporting of current events in our future fiction reads, what a brilliant way to add social commentary to our reading lives.

A strong, determined, feisty female protagonist, the crimes credible, heinous, prevalent and feature in our news headlines far too often and a fabulous twist or two that will surprise the most hardened crime fiction reader.  This is a fabulous read and I cannot wait for the next book in this series to arrive in my letterbox.

 

PS The translation is flawless.

 

Sweet as….Icecream

The first of my Valentine’s Day book giveaways – doesn’t this one sound inviting and perfect for a Valentine’s Day read for yourself or to to give to someone you love?   To win a copy of this moving novel, in the comments section of this post, share your favourite ice cream obsession. the-icecream-makers

The Ice- Cream Makers

Ernest van der Kwast

(trans. Laura Vroomen)

Scribe Publications

ISBN:9781925321203

Description:

**Giveaway open to Australian residents only. Many thanks to Scribe Publications for generously supporting this giveaway.Entries close midnight 13th February 2017.