Translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone
School Blues by Daniel Pennac
Five words from the blurb: teacher, saved, pupils, education, dunce
School Blues is an important book about engaging with all children, no matter how intelligent they are. There is a lot of wisdom in here, but it is let-down by the language used. Many of the proverbs don’t translate into English well and I found the overuse of words like “dunce” irritating. The differences between the British school system and the French one also means that much of the information is irrelevant/hard to follow. There are some great messages in here, but I’m afraid you have to wade through a lot of text to find them.
Euphoria by Lily King
Five words from the blurb: anthropologist, Margaret Mead, sexual, culture, adventure
I decided to read this book because many people listed it as one of their favorites last year. It is a fascinating story, based on the real life of a famous anthropologist. Unfortunately I think my enjoyment of this book was reduced by the fact I’d recently read The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanigahara, an outstanding book with a similar premise. Euphoria just felt like a watered-down version of The People in the Trees and, although it contained some fantastic passages, the plot was too simple to excite me.
Translated from the Spanish by Frank Wynne
In the Beginning Was the Sea by Tomás González
Five words from the blurb: relocate, Caribbean, decaying, relationship, horror
In the Beginning Was the Sea was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. It is a novella about a couple who move to the Columbian Caribbean coast with a romantic notion of living a simpler, happier life. I read this book in a single sitting and enjoyed many of the passages about trying to cope in run-down surroundings. Unfortunately I failed to bond with the couple and found the story too predictable. It was OK, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about it in a few month’s time.