February Reads

So I didn’t read as much as I’d have liked in February, but there were some exciting things all the same. I got to read Simone Buchholz’s Mexikoring, on which more later… Watch this space! Likewise, Zugmaus by Uwe Timm, illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

My non-work-related book of the month was The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl, translated by Don Bartlett, having been lucky enough to be sent an advance proof by Karen at publisher Orenda Books.

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester’s childhood friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.

And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

This stand-alone historical thriller is told with a split timeline that jumps between 1942, 1967 and the present day, skilfully weaving the threads together to reveal the chain of events that brings us eventually back to the point at which the novel began. It is tightly plotted with convincing characters and a compelling narrative that grips you from start to finish. And of course Don Bartlett’s translation is as skilful as ever, vividly conveying the voices and places we encounter along the way.

It’s such an interesting and shocking period of history that it offers endless possibilities to the novelist, of course, and Dahl is adept at showing how interrelated crimes of the past continue to send ripples, or even shockwaves, into the present. Highly recommended (unless you’re on public transport, in which case you might miss your stop – just saying).

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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