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.


 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. 


  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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  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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