Review: Something Great and Beautiful – Enrico Pellegrini

Something Great and Beautiful, by Enrico Pellegrini

There’s something romantic about summers in Italy and forays into the unknown of India that just doesn’t exist on Wall Street. When Chloé Verdi and Rosso Fiorentino, the protagonists of Enrico Pellegrini’s Something Great and Beautiful (Other Press), meet in India, the encounter is something exotic and tinged with the surreal. Juxtapose that with Chloé’s testimony in Rosso’s trial for securities fraud and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an engrossing page-turner that’s too delightful to put down.

Review: The Parting Gift – Evan Fallenberg

The Parting Gift, by Evan Fallenberg

A dark story of human relationships, The Parting Gift (by Evan Fallenberg, Other Press) captures the basest of our instincts – love, jealousy, anger, revenge – and wraps them up in an exotically seasoned mystery story. Written in the form of a letter to a friend, Adam, who sits across the room from him, the book’s unnamed narrator sets out the details of his past and the circumstances that brought him from Israel to Adam’s American front door four months earlier. A chance encounter with an Israeli spice merchant, Uzi, has seen the narrator fall under the spell of pure animal magnetism, losing himself in Uzi’s life, business and family. With time, however, he has come up for air, and does not always like what he sees.

Review: Cigarette Number Seven – Donia Kamal

Cigarette Number Seven by Donia Kamal

Set largely within the 18 days of protests that led to the collapse of the Mubarak government in Egypt, Donia Kamal’s Cigarette Number Seven (American University in Cairo Press, translated from Arabic by Nariman Youssef) is not a tale of glorious revolution, but a depiction of a life in which Tahrir Square is only one of many competing priorities. The book traces snippets of Nadia’s life, from her childhood with her grandparents to her relationships with the men in her life, including her father. At the time of the 2011 revolution, Nadia’s father is aging and unwell, but no less enthusiastic about change than he was when he took her to protests as a child.

Review: The Crying Place – Lia Hills

The Crying Place by Lia Hills

There is an element of risk in being a white, New Zealand-born woman, writing about men’s experience of grief in remote Australian Aboriginal communities, but that is exactly what Lia Hills has done in her novel, The Crying Place (Allen & Unwin). When Saul (a self-described ‘whitefella’) hears about his friend, Jed’s, death by suicide, he leaves his apartment in Sydney and heads into the desert heartland of the country, in search of answers. Saul knows only that, in the months prior to his death, Jed had been living in a remote Pitjantjatjara community out beyond Uluru, and that he had fallen in love with a local girl, Nara, while he was there. What Saul finds, as he traces Jed’s last months, is not just a new connection to his old friend, but also to something much greater than himself.

Review: Ten Women – Marcella Serrano

Ten Women by Marcella Serrano

As the title suggests, Marcella Serrano’s Ten Women (AmazonCrossing, translated from Spanish by Beth Fowler) is a collection of stories detailing the lives of ten women in the Chilean city of Santiago. Nine of the women are patients of the tenth, Natasha; a psychologist who has brought them all together to meet for the first time. One by one, the women share their life stories.

Review: Against the Inquisition – Marcos Aguinis

Against the Inquisition by Marcos Aguinis

Based on the true story of Francisco Maldonado da Silva, a Jewish doctor practicing (both medicine and religion) under the watchful eye of the Catholic Church, Against the Inquisition (AmazonCrossing, written by Marcos Aguinis, translated from Spanish by Carolina de Robertis) is a story of integrity and truth. Forced out of their native Spain by the Inquisition – first to Portugal and then to South America – Francisco’s ancestors have left a legacy for the generations to come; the key to the home from which they were exiled, and a secret identity.

Review: Last Train to Istanbul – Ayşe Kulin

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin

Like Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, Last Train to Istanbul (AmazonCrossing, written by Ayşe Kulin, translated from Turkish by John W. Baker) is a work of historical fiction, centred around a relatively unknown example of human compassion and resistance in the face of Nazi occupation. Unlike The Nightingale, however, this Resistance had, at least implicit, diplomatic backing.

Review: The Great Passage – Shion Miura

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

Like the dictionary itself, Shion Miura’s The Great Passage (AmazonCrossing, translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter) is a book with many layers. At its most superficial, the Gembu Books Dictionary Editorial Department has a new project – a dream even – to create a new Japanese dictionary, Daitokai (The Great Passage); a “ship that crosses the sea of words”.