Love a Book, Judge the Next

Loving the first book that we read by an author is a fabulous experience, regardless if they are at the beginning of their writing career or if they already have various books published. The downside is that it can make us be much harsher when reading a second book by them. I think this happened to me a few times. I loved the first books that I read by certain authors so much that I ended up being much severe when judging my following reads by them.

 

Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

The first book that I read by Daphne du Maurier was the magnificent Rebecca, an enthralling, enigmatic and atmospheric novel, which is full of fleshed out characters. After marrying Maxim de Winter, the unnamed narrator moved with him to his family home, Manderley. She already felt inferior to his first wife, Rebecca, before, but living there only increased her insecurities and her sense of inaptitude.

After loving Rebecca, I was eager to continue exploring Du Maurier’s work. I soon picked up My Cousin Rachel. Philip, the narrator of the story, was raised by his older cousin Ambrose, who married Rachel while in Italy. Not long after his marriage, he died. Although Philip harboured suspicions about the role of his cousin Rachel in Ambrose’s death, he ended up falling in love with her. There’s a mysterious ambience throughout, as readers are skilfully led to have conflicting feelings about the characters. I was not fully convinced by how Philip fell so head over heels with Rachel, though. Despite being certain that I didn’t like it nowhere near as much as Rebecca, I feel like I was a bit too harsh on my review. Continue reading

Books in Portuguese that Should Be Translated into English

When I decided to create this blog about books, I thought it a good idea to write it in English, although it is not my first language. I don’t regret that choice in the slightest, since it has allowed me to continue practising the language and to interact with fellow readers from all over the world. However, it has also a downside. Sometimes I mention books originally written in Portuguese that are not available in English and, thus, that the majority of you can’t read.

Today’s post will add to this conundrum, seeing that it’s exclusively about books that, to the best of my knowledge, haven’t yet been translated into English but should have. Some of these are available in other languages besides Portuguese, such as Spanish and French, though.

 

Livro by José Luís Peixoto

Set in part in the ‘60s, Livro delves into the Portuguese emigration to France through the story of a specific family. José Luís Peixoto uses more than words to tell this story, which emphasises how difficult it can be to achieve a better life. A circle drawn around particular words helps to convey an important plot point. ‘Livro’ means ‘book’ in Portuguese, and it is not only the title of this novel but also the name of a crucial character. Continue reading

Favourite Not So Popular Books

A long time passed since the day I started blogging and the moment when I created my Goodreads account at the beginning of this year. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to finally decide to set it up, though, because I’ve been finding it quite useful. Besides being a good tool to keep track of the books that I own but haven’t read yet (previously I only used a spreadsheet to list the books that I had read), it also made me realise that some of the books I really liked haven’t been read by that many people.

Some of the books that I really cherish have less than two thousand ratings on Goodreads. So, in comparison with other books, they are not particularly popular. Nevertheless, they are still really worth reading. These are the five that I wish more people would read:

 

The Dumb House by John Burnside

The Dumb House by John Burnside deals with quite uncomfortable topics, but that didn’t prevent me from being in awe of the way sentences were crafted. From the outset we know that Luke has performed a cruel experiment on his own children. He was fascinated by the tale of the Dumb House, so he wanted to know whether language was learnt or innate. His obsession not only with that story but also with the matter of life and death and the existence of a soul takes him down a dark path. Continue reading

Favourite Books with a Historical Backdrop

Whenever I’m book shopping, one of the many things that catches my attention is the time period in which a story is set in. I tend to like books which either the entirety or only part of the action takes place at the time of an important historical event. These are books whose fictional characters and events end up being embroiled in a real historical episode in one way or another, and that can be labelled as historical fiction or not.

I categorise as historical fiction the books that not only are set in the past, but which were written by authors who were born after the time period in which their novel unfolds. In these cases, authors don’t have a first-hand experience of the period they depicted in their novels. Books with a historical backdrop, on the other hand, can be written by authors who lived during the time period the story is set in or not. But, and more importantly for this distinction, besides depicting the manners and other details about a particular time period, these books feature an important real historical event. So, for me, a novel with a historical backdrop is not necessarily historical fiction.

After explaining how I describe books with a historical backdrop, I can now reveal which ones are my favourites. Continue reading

Mixed-Media Books

When I hear the word ‘book’, a picture of a sequence of letters springs to mind. However, I’ve read a few books in recent years that make use of additional mediums to help convey the message of the story. Those can be called mixed-media books, since visual elements accompany the more traditional text. These extra elements can be either relevant documents, changes in the design of the page or the text, or a piece of artwork.

One of the types of mixed-media books has traditional text as the main medium, but also includes letters, emails, webpages, social network status, conversations on online forums or interviews. These can either be used to show what the characters are reading or as direct information to the reader. Throughout the decades many books have featured letters, for example, although graphic elements were not always used to visually set them apart. So, those novels don’t really look like mixed-media books.

However, such elements are quite noticeable in other novels. The Power by Naomi Alderman not only features letters at the beginning and the end, but also presents the reader with archival documents and an extract of a chat on an online forum, in order to tell the story of what women were able to do with supreme power. Excerpts of an interview with the main character, Kirsten Raymonde, are an important element in Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Through them the reader gets more information about what happened when the Georgian flu spread worldwide. Continue reading