Books in Brief: Euphoria, School Blues and In the Beginning Was the Sea

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School Blues Source: Personal Copy

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.

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 Euphoria Source: Library

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. 

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  In the Beginning Was the Sea (Pushkin Collection) Source: Library

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. 

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6 Comments

  1. I can definitely understand how Euphoria would not resonate as well with you having so recently read TPitT (which is certainly the superior novel). It has been a long time since I read anything like Euphoria, so I definitely was able to enjoy it. I appreciated that it was a story that I was able to sink into and then get swept away from, and though I don’t think it was without its flaws, I did enjoy it!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, It’s a shame as books like these come along so rarely. I really should spread them out more – perhaps then I wont be able to compare them so accurately!

  2. Marina Sofia says:

    You’ve made me really curious to read The People in the Trees now. As an anthropologist, I really enjoyed Euphoria (being a Margaret Mead fan also helped), but I hadn’t read anything about anthropology and fieldwork in a long, long time.

    1. Jackie says:

      Marina, Yes – The People in the Trees is an outstanding book. It will give you a lot to think about!

  3. Diane says:

    I tried and tried with Euphoria, but it just wasn’t for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who didn’t love it. :-)

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