Only notable, I suppose, because of how I lightened up my criticism of the translation of Aunt Suni (which I first talked about here)
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY
By Ann Shaffer and Annie Fiery Barrows
The “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” focuses on an eponymously named book club. The club is the part fanciful and entirely necessary creation of a moment. Caught out after curfew by Nazi occupiers a character creates the book club as a cover.
Shaffer researched the occupation of the Guernsey Islands; tales of privation, cruelty, a concentration camp, collaboration and bravery, and weaves the lives of occupied and occupiers to reveal the moral confusion the occupation raised, while also celebrating local resistance. The book club becomes a functioning one and helps the locals deal with their painful situation. Love stories anchor the book, which is written in epistolary style. In the post-war passages this style seems slightly contrived. The book is serious, lighthearted and entertaining at the same time, and by virtue of its epistolary style, probably like nothing you have recently read.
(288 pages 18,200W)
MY SISTER’S KEEPER
“My Sister’s Keeper”, by Judy Picoult has a plot that might seem far-fetched. Anna Fitzgerald is an intentional genetic doppelganger of her sister Kate, and has only been brought into the world to keep that sister alive. Beaten down and unhappy as a result of her ‘replacement’ status and years of ‘donation’ of body-parts, she seeks revenge in the most modern of ways – she sues. Not just sues, but hires a lawyer who has already sued God!
Like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, My Sister’s Keeper is told from multiple points of view. This is a wise approach, allowing the depth of each character to be revealed and characters who might otherwise have seemed unsympathetic are given full personalities and understandable justifications: The mother, in particular, emerges as a sad but sympathetic character. A good read, My Sister’s Keeper carefully balances science, philosophy, morality, law, and finally fate.
(448 pages 20,800W)
By Ki-young Hyeon
Ki-young Hyeon’s “Aunt Suni”, is a troubling story that rewards a determined reader with a glimpse of unfortunate Korean history. The narrator returns to Jeju to attend his grandfather’s funeral only to discover he is also “attending” the death of his Aunt Suni. As Suni’s story unwinds, we realize that she – tragic, insane, a suicide – was a battered relic of historical crimes.
The story is a series of conversations, allowing multiple narrators to explain the tragedy. A sub-plot brings Suni to Seoul where, in the smallest things – accent, rice consumption, burned fish – Hyeon reveals Suni’s trauma. Where the bones of plot and muscles of story-telling show through, Hyun’s strength as a writer shines. A potential reader, however, should know that the translation is sometimes difficult: A must-buy for fans of Korean history and literature, “Aunt Suni “might be a ‘maybe- buy’ for more general readers.
(123 pages 10,000W)