Review & Giveaway: Integrity by Anna Borgeryd, Cynthia Kite (Translator)

25330190
About Integrity

Vera is a nurse from Sweden who, while delivering a dangerous birth in the Colombian jungle, makes contact with indigenous people who give her a wholly different outlook on life. A traumatic experience takes her home, her life in pieces just like the world as she now sees it. Her quest to put her life back together becomes tied up with her vision of a more sustainable world.

She meets the corporate heir to a company specializing in luxury travel who has a predatory attitude to women. Could such opposites really attract? And, if they came together, could they actually do something to halt the global march to self-destruction? An exploration of the inter-connectedness of human life, an unexpected love story, Integrity delves deep into the choices and emotions of a woman trying to change the world, and a man trying to change with her.

My Review

Borgeryd initially captured my attention a quarter of the way through the story, Vera’s story of narrowly escaping with her life while volunteering in Columbia was the incipient hook causing my antennae to quiver, however, it was short lived.

No complaints with the writing and translation, both very well done, the issue is with the characters and narrative. My attention was pulled and pushed equally. The narrative was monotonous as well as redundant. Vera, Peter along with the supporting cast were unappealing. They came across has mere figures on paper no dimensionality whatsoever. Numerous starts and stalls where Borgeryd reined in my focus until the pedestrian narrative pushed my focus far far away, repeating this vicious cycle until the very end. I’m confident if the length was pared down by 200-250 pages or so my attention could have been held to a higher level. Vera and Peter are lifeless and annoying, a clear case of much too much telling and definitely not nearly enough showing, benign characterization didn’t help fuel the fire.

If Borgeryd controlled the disarray and stayed on path, not to mention breathed life into her characters I would have been more receptive, than again this might be best enjoyed in its native language or perhaps it all boils down to a matter of taste. An awful lot to inhale until you reach the end leaving this reader exhausted and frustrated.

A detailed mature part coming of age story, part opposites attract romantically with a few very interesting subplots and points tossed in, you’ll enjoy Borgeryd’s effort, writing and translation softens the labor.

About Anna Borgerydimages

Anna Borgeryd has a PhD in conflict management and is chair of the family business Polarbröd. She is a musician and film-maker and this, her first novel, started life as a screenplay which won several awards in Sweden. She has been an adviser to the Swedish government’s Future Commission. She has given a TEDx lecture on The Dawn of a New Economy and in 2014 she was named among the fifteen most influential environmentalists in Sweden. She blogs at Wood and Blue.

Giveaway

Enter to win my ARC copy of Integrity by Anna Borgeryd, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 11/24/15
ENTRY-FORM

Advertisements

Review: I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar, Sheila Dickie (Translation)

20702599
Twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro has spent the last two years of his life living as a hikikomori—a shut-in who never leaves his room and has no human interaction—in his parents’ home in Tokyo. As Hiro tentatively decides to reenter the world, he spends his days observing life around him from a park bench. Gradually he makes friends with Ohara Tetsu, a middle-aged salaryman who has lost his job but can’t bring himself to tell his wife, and shows up every day in a suit and tie to pass the time on a nearby bench. As Hiro and Tetsu cautiously open up to each other, they discover in their sadness a common bond. Regrets and disappointments, as well as hopes and dreams, come to the surface until both find the strength to somehow give a new start to their lives.

“I reached out my hand towards you, and, that’s the answer to your question, perhaps it really is this reaching out, this reaching towards someone else, that’s needed most of all.”

Flašar’s writing is exquisite, her words flow with such fluidity, absolutely stunning as the two protagonists pensively share their anguish.

A young hikikomori bonds with a mature unemployed businessman, both shouldering heavy burdens, self-imposed alienation as well as questions on existentialism. A slow mutual unveiling releases the pain these two have carried unknown to others. They open their hearts and openly share their many trials and tribulations, disappointments as each shares their perspective, shedding new light on what’s revealed.

The beautiful aspect of this book, you find solace in others when you least expect it and realize you needed someone all along to unload the burdens you carry, the other requiring the same balm. A sincere story of emotional shedding, of forgiving yourself, a truly memorable novel equally intense and beautiful.

divider-transparent-2

•Paperback, 133 pages
•Published September 9th 2014 by New Vessel Press (first published 2012)
•ISBN13: 9781939931146

Review: The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel, Alison Anderson (Translation)

image

The dual narrative provides a psychological and emotional glimpse into old wounds of two former lovers as their paths accidentally cross after many years. An emotional and affecting train ride. Tension builds as each party reveals their recollection along with feelings of hurtful event.

Characters revisit choices made in youth, regrets, hurt, anger all untangled as the story of the former lovers is exposed. An inadvertent meeting sparks a journey of healing when all is said and done. A raw old wound cleverly and openly exposed with the remorse, and anguish blistering to this day, a fateful meeting providing closure after much time has passed. Reflection of past and present and what could or could not have been.

Anyone enduring hurt of any kind without closure will relate to this story. I personally found my own experience parallel to the two characters. Luckily my offender tracked me down after 20+ years to apologize and seek forgiveness – accepted and granted. His olive branch offering provided much and was an unexpected surprise, needless to say it made a huge impact in my life. Youth is ignorance but cruelty is never acceptable.

image

Paperback, 170 pages
Expected publication: November 10th 2015 by New Vessel Press
ISBN13: 9781939931269

Review: For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu

22749701

Peter wrestles with gender expectations and his own gender identity.

Fu introduces the reader to a family ruled by a quasi tyrannical father heavy on Chinese cultural and traditional beliefs. Although the story focuses on each family member, Peter ultimately becomes the center of the narrative.

Peter, the only male son born of two Chinese immigrants – his life mapped out from the womb by his father. The burden of expectation serves as a yoke around Peter’s neck. Successful, a pillar of strength, marriage along with a family – merely scratching at the life sketched for Peter.

“I drew myself with a stiff halo of hair, swaddled babies around my feet. A satisfied smile from ear to ear. “I want to be a Mommy.”

However Peter hopes for a different life, a life he only shares with his sisters, a hidden secret kept from his parents.

Peter sneaks moments where he can be his authentic self – wearing an apron, cooking, cleaning, dressing up, applying make-up. Tasks performed alone, fearful of how the world will accept her.

“I felt a wave of panic. I never peed standing up. When I had to, I thought of my body as a machine, a robot that did my bidding. A combination of arms and legs and heart and lungs. It had nothing to do with me. My real body was somewhere else, waiting for me. It looked like my sisters’ bodies.”

The story gives hope but it really highlights the pain and isolation of living a life as a lie. How you have to hide your authentic self due to parental disapproval along with societal scorn. Fitting into an unfamiliar an awkward skin feeling as if you’re an unwelcome intruder, clearly knowing your trapped in a body representing the wrong sex.

Fu masters Peter and his brutal and beautiful story. Painful tinged with hope.

divider-transparent-2
•Paperback, 256 pages
•Published March 10th 2015 by Mariner Books (first published January 14th 2014)
•ISBN13: 9780544538528

Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera, Alison Entrekin (Translator)

image

The mesmerizing story of how a troubled young man’s restorative journey to the seaside becomes a violent struggle with his family’s past.

An incredibly rich read in intricate atmospheric details, a narrative requiring the reader to enjoy the journey not just the destination. Beautifully written combining, mystery, existentialism, complexities of relationships, love, self discovery, myth, legend, memories, YES! Somehow is all meshes together creating a memorable reading adventure with an unforgettable protagonist.

Despite the hodgepodge the narrative offers, it possesses a subtle complexity, rather captivating and hypnotic. The protagonist digs deep without dragging casualties down with him. Heavy in meaning, yet obtainable in exteriority.

Simplistically potent best describes the lush prose, challenging the reader until the very end. Those craving a true literary experience offering a tableau of cerebral engagement – this author along with his accomplished work is for you.

Daniel Galera, a rising voice in Brazilian literature, remember the name, savor his work.


Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 22nd 2015 by Penguin Press
ISBN13: 9781594205743

The Door by Magda Szabó, Len Rix (Translator)

image

The Door is the story of friendship between two very different women in post-war Hungary.

Post war Hungary – two very different women forge a friendship. A writer and a housekeeper develop a complicated bond, a intricate psychological dependency of sorts – healthy and unhealthy.

The women are explored in tremendous detail. The narrator is mute but her thoughts vocally seep through the narrative as she reveals herself and her feelings and thoughts of Emerence. We are privy to the many relationships surrounding Emerence and we witness the narrator stumble upon her own success as she is somewhat removed from Emerence’s intimate circle.

The story is presented in the form of memory, reflection, therefore lacking an abundance of dialog. It is tragic, brilliant and sad. It’s a narrative requiring the reader to slowly enjoy the complex layers as they are revealed, it is slowly thoughtful and meant to be savored in this exact manner.


Hardcover, 262 pages
Published October 20th 2005 by Harvill Secker (first published 1987)
ISBN13: 9781843431930

The Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng Tan

The Garden of Evening Mists

The Garden of Evening Mists is an eloquently written book of memory – remembering and forgetting. Tan Twan Eng invites us to discover the relationship between Yun Ling Teoh, who was a Japanese prisoner during World War II, and later served as an apprentice of a Japanese gardener Nakamura Aritomo.

The meat of the story takes place in Malay during World War II while the story is actually told in three different time periods: the late 1980s, when the main character writes down her story, the early 1950s when the main action takes place, and World War II, which provides the backdrop for the story.

The Garden of Evening Mists covers a lot of territory. Tan Twan Eng incorporates existential gardening concepts such as shakkei, “borrowed scenery”; which “every aspect of gardening is a form of deception”;  the “Art of Setting Stones” is back-breaking;  a garden is the expression of spiritual states. Eng also explores archery, which Aritomo practices as a form of meditation. Tea-growing, and about the sexually charged practice of horimono (Japanese tattooing), as well as the disturbing details of Japanese war camps where Yun Ling and others were “guests of the Emperor”, a disgusting term.

The Garden of Evening Mists is a sobering story of war and its impact on survivors lives. Heartbreaking as well as inspiring with the strength of Yun Ling. The setting of Malay adds to this historical fiction novel. I suggest you add this to your reading list.

image Hardcover, 350 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Myrmidon
ISBN13: 9781905802494