I actually hit the 60 book milestone back in August, but it has taken me until now to get the relevant posts out. I seem to have slowed down in my progress, since looking back, I finished the first 30 books in just over a year. Overall though, I’m happy with my progress. I’m keeping up with my rough goal of covering 20 countries a year, since I’m coming to the end of year 3(!) of the project.
Where I’ve been lately:
Once again, I’ve failed to read anything from South America. I suppose there’s no point in vowing once again that I’ll get to it in the next ten books. I’ll get there eventually.
Overall this was a really good group of books. The one book that I really struggled with was The Story of Zahra by Hanan Al-Shaykh (Lebanon) but in the end I learned some valuable things from reading it, even if I really didn’t like the book.
The two books of this group that had the biggest impact on me were The Mussel Feast by Brigit Vanderkam (Germany) and The Door by Magda Szabo (Hungary). Both of these books, plus another one that I really enjoyed, The Summer Book by Tove Janssen (Finland) were really narrowly focused books. The Summer Book and The Door both revolved around the relationship between two people to such an extent that all the other characters in the book seemed like mere shadows. In The Summer Book the relationship was between grandmother and granddaughter, spending the summer on an isolated island. In The Door, the narrator analyzes her relationship with her housekeeper and deals with her feelings of guilt and responsibility.
The Mussel Feast encompasses the relationships between four people instead of two. As a scientist I can tell you that going from two interacting parts to four adds a huge amount of complexity! But The Mussel Feast is told from the perspective of a single evening, so it still feels very narrowly defined.
I often really like big epics and books incorporating many points of view, but there was something really nice about the way each of the books in this set really dug in to one very specific thing. (And they all still were reflective in some way of their country of origin, which is something I look for in the books I pick.)
Where I’m headed:
I’ve already read my book for Estonia, Petty God by Kaur Kender. I’ve also read a book covering Ethiopia recently, but I haven’t decided whether I’m going to include that one or not. I started reading it not planning to count it as my ‘official’ Ethiopia book. But I’m thinking about including it, just because I kind of want to rant about it. That seems kind of unfair to Ethiopia though!
I’ve still got Jorge Luis Borges sitting on my shelf. Also sitting there is my book for Senegal, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. I’ve heard really good things about it, so I’m excited to read it. Actually, I think the only reason I haven’t read it yet is that my copy is from the academic library and once again full of someone else’s underlining and notes. There were actually several copies of this book in the library, and I tried to pick the least marked-up one, but it’s still kind of irritating. Maybe I just need to request a copy from another library!