It’s the last round of #RivetingReviews of the year, and the first time I’ve taken the reins of the ELNet sleigh to introduce them. We haven’t plumped for an out-and-out festive theme this month, but we have lined up a stockingful of titles perfect for revelling in during the quieter moments of Twixmas – and riveting enough to revive you from the stubbornest of Quality Street-induced torpors!
2021 has been another great year of books in translation, and this month we’re glad to feature some highlights that have been on our reviews wish list for a while.
On the historical nonfiction side, Anna Blasiak and Max Easterman kick things off with their respective reviews of Foucault in Warsaw by Remigiusz Ryziński, which shines a light on gay life and culture in Warsaw during the 1950s communist period; and Jan Brokken’s The Just, the story of how Jan Zwartendijk, a former branch director of Philips, helped give thousands of Jews safe passage out of Lithuania, Poland, Austria and Germany in 1940-41. Two very different topics, but equally thought-provoking.
Looking west to France and the wider French-speaking world, Alice Banks explores Maryse Condé’s latest National Book Award longlisted novel; I delve into Ethiopian-French theatre star Myriam Tadessé’s explosive memoir; and Jennifer Sarha uncovers Simone de Beauvoir’s lost novel, which proves to have more than a touch of the autofictional itself. Autobiography also looms large in Darcy Hurford’s review of the Swedish graphic novel Goblin Girl, though in a much more 21st-century world of dire Tinder dates and ‘comically ghastly’ counsellor sessions.
And because Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without at least a nod to Christmas, Paul Burke does the honours with his appraisal of Swiss legend Peter Stamm’s new short story collection. However, the snowy winter setting and throwbacks to Christmas Days past turn out to be rather less merry than they first seem. Festive cheer is thin on the ground in Juli Zeh’s novel New Year too, where, as Reviews Editor West Camel discovers, the road to the much-hyped goal of ‘new year, new you’ transpires to be anything but a party…
Injecting a touch of light relief (albeit of the dark comedy variety), Barry Forshaw gives a tempting flavour of Antti Tuomainen’s newest Nordic thriller, The Rabbit Factor. Sticking with the crime theme, Max Easterman closes the book on 2021 with a preview of what we can look forward to in January with his review of the second instalment in the Inspector Peter Hunkeler series.
We hope you’ll enjoy filling your boots with this selection, and that you’ll share them widely on social media too. And if any titles take your fancy, please don’t hesitate to fill your real-life stockings by visiting our dedicated Bookshop.org page!
Please keep sending us your #RivetingReviews in the new year – we’re always happy to welcome (and welcome back) faces old and new. Until then, we wish you a safe and happy festive period – with full licence to go to town on the Quality Street!
Rosie Eyre, Deputy Reviews Editor