When small time insurance man Walter Huff meets Phyllis Nirdlinger, her beauty quickly seduced him. The wife of a wealthy oil executive convinces himWhen small time insurance man Walter Huff meets Phyllis Nirdlinger, her beauty quickly seduced him. The wife of a wealthy oil executive convinces him to help get rid of her husband, but not before a substantial policy was taken out on him. Accident insurance often causes suspicion but when Phyllis’ husband dies from what looks like a train accident, double indemnity kicks in and Walter’s bosses suspect foul play.
James M. Cain is the master at noir with books like The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce and recently The Cocktail Waitress was released posthumously. Double Indemnity is one of his most notable pieces of work and was adapted into the 1944 classic film noir movie of the same name. The movies screenplay was written by fellow master of pulp Raymond Chandler and has been dubbed culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant by the US Library of Congress.
Double Indemnity is a clause often found in accident insurance policies where the issuer agrees to pay double (or more) if the accident happens in certain conditions. It is often used to make the policy more appealing but applies to low risk incidents. Death by train accident is one of these examples and when Phyllis’ husband died in these conditions the insurance company was naturally suspicious.
This classic pulp novel follows Walter Huff who plots the perfect murder all for the beautiful Phyllis Nirdlinger. What he didn’t count on was that he was seduced into helping a femme fatale and now he was under her thumb. In true James M. Cain style, Double Indemnity holds nothing back, both in style and plot. Everything you expect in a 1930s noir novel can be found in this thrilling novella.
This is a re-read for me of Double Indemnity and I must admit I was so happy to return to the style of James M. Cain. Everything you expect from the pulp style and dialogue can be found within this classic story. I know I need to dive into some more of Cain’s novels, with some re-reads and completing his bibliography. I have no words to describe the feeling of returning to a much-loved author and I know I need to re-watch the movie. If you have never read Cain or anything from the classic pulp genre, then you can never go wrong with a book like Double Indemnity.
Wolf Totem is the story of a Chen Zhen, a young Beijing student who is sent to the countryside of Inner Mongolia in 1967. He lived with the nomadic MoWolf Totem is the story of a Chen Zhen, a young Beijing student who is sent to the countryside of Inner Mongolia in 1967. He lived with the nomadic Mongols, who are a proud, brave, and ancient race of people, exploring the harmony, beauty and also cruelness of nature. As well as learning the philosophy the Mongols have towards nature and their attitudes towards the wolf; who keep the ecological balance.
This is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows an experience that the author, Lü Jiamin (writing under the pseudonym Jiang Rong) had during the height of China’s culture revolution. This revolution was a social-political movement that took place within the People’s Republic of China between 1966 and 1976. The communist chairman Mao Zedong’s goals were to preserve the true communist ideals within China. This meant the purging of capitalism and even traditional culture.
In the height of this purge, the protagonist is exploring the folk traditions, rituals, and life on the Steppe, looking into the culture and traditions of the ethnic Mongolian nomads and the Han Chinese farmers. These traditions were at risk of being purged under Chairman Mao’s rule, allowing the author to talk about the importance of keeping ancient traditions alive.
Also within Wolf Totem there is a whole obsession Chen Zhen has with wolves. They are seen to keep nature in balance. He fears and respects the wolves but he also questions their role in nature. A connection could be made between the wolves and the Communist party but that is up to the reader to decide.
I found this book to drag on a bit too much; there is a lot of information about wolves and agriculture that seemed to just go on and on. However, Wolf Totem explored some unfamiliar cultures to me and gave me great insight into one man’s opinions about the culture revolution. I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if it did not drag on so much; could have purged at least a hundred pages. Having said that, I am glad I read it and I think it is worth exploring different points of view.
Helen Macdonald has always had a fascination with birds, since a young age she was determined to become a falconer. She would read books on the topic;Helen Macdonald has always had a fascination with birds, since a young age she was determined to become a falconer. She would read books on the topic; one book in particular had stuck with her, The Goshawk by T. H. White. When Helen lost her father, grief struck her in a big way, and soon her obsession in training her own goshawk was her own way out. H is for Hawk is a memoir on both dealing with grief and obsession.
I heard so much about this book and when it was assigned for book club, I was excited. Although in the back of my mind, my thoughts on falconry were sceptical. I find falconry to be a barbaric and cruel practice that is no longer required within our culture. To starve and cage a raptor for your own amusement seems unnecessary. With these thoughts going into the book, I had a hard time appreciating the memoir.
I know Helen Macdonald repeatedly stated that she was not starving the goshawk, I still thought of it as a cruel practice. I learned a lot about falconry, some stuff was interesting but there was so much information to process. The book never changed my feelings towards falconry, only cemented them and that become my fundamental problem with H is for Hawk. I enjoyed the parts about The Goshawk and I love reading memoirs about reading books but there was not enough there to hold my interest.
I thought I would try annotating this book, it is a habit that I want to start and thought it would be fun. However I did have to stop with the annotation, as I started to feel like Helen Macdonald was over playing her grief just to make the story more interesting. I did not want to be the heartless person that criticises the author’s emotions, especially when it comes to grief. So I quickly abandoned my annotations and I continued to try to get into the habit.
While H is for Hawk has some wonderful writing, I had a very difficult time enjoying this book. I wanted Helen Macdonald to return to talking about The Goshawk through out the entire memoir. I am interested in seeing what Macdonald will do next, she certainly can right. I hope her next book, whatever that may be, will be something I can get behind.
When a famous actor and director arrives in Bakersfield, California (1959) scouting film locations for an upcoming movie about madness, the local gossWhen a famous actor and director arrives in Bakersfield, California (1959) scouting film locations for an upcoming movie about madness, the local gossip columns begin to speculate why they are here. However, when a murder at a roadside motel is discovered, this dusty, quiet town is turned on its head. Unfolding the same way the Hitchcock’s movie Psycho, almost frame for frame. No one ever predicted that life would rival anything that this director could capture on the screen.
Manuel Muñoz has been dazzling the world with his short story collections for a while now, often been compared to Junot Díaz or Daniel Alarcón. What You See in the Dark is his debut novel and it explodes onto the scene to explore the deliciously sinister side of desire. Heavily influenced by Psycho, Muñoz tries to capture that iconic feel of this classic movie.
What I found fascinating about this novel is the way it did try to mimic Hitchcock’s Psycho, trying to capture the feel and style. While it does not always work I was very impressed with just how much did translate to the page. Manuel Muñoz is a very impressive writer and I went into this book expecting something light and fluffy but ended up being captivated by the style.
What You See in the Dark is a very stylistic novel that tried and often succeeded in playing with the imagery, however it often did stick to what novels do far better than movies, and that is the internal monologues. The book is not without its flaws, there are times where it tries too hard at mimicking Hitchcock and there are other times where it feels flat or dry. In the end, this was an enjoyable book with a perfect title. What do you see in the dark? Hitchcock knows and he has the answer.
Anna Karenina is the tragic story of the socialite’s marriage to Karenin and her affair with the wealthy Count Vronsky. The novel begins in the midstAnna Karenina is the tragic story of the socialite’s marriage to Karenin and her affair with the wealthy Count Vronsky. The novel begins in the midst of their families break up due to her brother’s constant womanising; a situation that preferences her own situation throughout the novel. Running in parallel to this story of Konstantin Levin, a humble country landowner that wishes to marry Kitty, who is Anna’s sister in-law. Anna Karenina is a pinnacle piece of realist literature, exploring a wide range of family issues.
At over 800 pages, Anna Karenina can be a daunting novel to pick up; the large cast of characters does not make it any easier. I look at this classic novel as an exploration into melodrama that just about every family experiences. Born in 1828, Lev (Leo) Nikolaevich Tolstoy was born into a large and wealthy Russian landowning family, and has often been suggested that Anna Karenina is based on a similar social upbringing. While there are vast differences, issues with wealth, religion, farming and morality are issues that seem to parallel between reality and fiction. The story arch of Levin is considered to be autobiographical; Tolstoy’s first name is Lev (although in English he is known as Leo) and the Russian surname Levin actually means Lev.
Leo Tolstoy has been known for adding real life events into his fiction as a way with dealing with current political and social issues. Within Anna Karenina, events like the liberal reforms initiated by Emperor Alexander II of Russia and the judicial reform are used as the backdrop for the novel. This allows him to explore current issues, like the developing of Russian into the industrial age and the role of agriculture in these changing times. Also Tolstoy questions the role of the woman in this changing society and (the ever popular in Russian lit) class struggles.
The story of Anna Karenina is probably the most interesting for me and I enjoyed reading the struggle between love and the public opinion. She was trapped in a marriage and wanted to divorce but Karenin, who was a politician cared more about his public image. Then there is the fact that Anna’s brothers womanising destroyed the family and now she is faced with a similar situation that could cause the same damage. Adultery becomes a big theme within the book and seems to be a common theme within Russian literature to this day. However with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857), these three novels seemed to start a fascination in exploring the themes of passion and adultery in the mid to late nineteenth century.
There is a lot to explore within this book, and re-reading Anna Karenina was such an enjoyable experience. I know big books often scare me but there is something about going back to a much-loved novel that I find enjoyable. Leo Tolstoy intentionally made this novel long, he wanted to replicate life’s journey and the struggles people face along the way. I think he was able to capture that struggle and Anna Karenina will remain a favourite on my shelves and in Russian literature. There are so many more themes that could be explored within the novel but I will leave that for others to discover on their own.
Kafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternatKafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternate chapters tell the story of Nakata; a strange old man who has the ability to talk to cats. Like many of Haruki Murakami’s books, Kafka on the Shore blends pop culture with magical realism in order to explore the psyche of the characters involved.
It is often hard to try and give an overview of a Murakami book because they tend to come out weird and I do not want to give the impression that his novels are not worth attempting. For Kafka on the Shore, the magical realism allows the reader to explore the psychological mind of fifteen year old Kafka Tamune. Not only is Kakfa a young man discovering his sexuality, Sigmund Freud would probably suggest that he also has an Oedipus complex and has developed an unhealthy obsession with his mother and sister.
According to Freud, an Oedipus complex stems from the unconscious mind and normally caused by the repression of a mother (or father) figure. Freudian psychoanalysis theory suggests that this is a key psychological experience needed for normal sexual development. However if it is unsuccessful at resolving it may lead to neurosis, paedophilia, or homosexuality. Without going into the problematic thinking of Sigmund Freud, this does make for an interesting analysis of Kafka’s journey throughout the book, especially with his interactions between Sakura and Miss Saeki.
If we continue looking at this novel through the lens of psychoanalysis theory, we might even get some interesting insights into Nakata. I always thought the loss of mental faculties was due to the psychological trauma, he experienced as a young boy. He was one of sixteen schoolchildren picking mushrooms in a field trip towards the end of World War II, when they were all rendered unconscious from a mysterious light in the sky. However it has also been suggested that maybe Kafka and Nakata are two different parts of the same person.
Every time I read a Haruki Murakami, I am reminded of his brilliance (with the exception of 1Q84), and I want to explore more of his works. I am also reminded that I need to learn a whole lot more about psychoanalytical theories, and how much it would help with books like Kafka on the Shore. For me this was a bildungsroman book about sexual development and memories. However, I found myself more interested in the chapters centred on Kafka over those about Nakata but maybe that was because I understood them a little better.
Yet again Haruki Murakami has impressed me with Kafka on the Shore and I am eager to pick up more of his books. I know magical realism can be scary for some people but I love the way Murakami uses it to explore the mind. My only real criticism of this book is that it was a little bloated and could have been trimmed down a little and still achieve the same. This might be due to an aversion to big books that I really need to overcome and not a true reflection on Murakami. I highly recommend giving this author a go if you have never tried him but Kafka on the Shore is not a good starting point; may I suggest trying Norwegian Wood first.
Aliens exist, and now they need our help. After Earth is ruined by nuclear and environmental disasters, it is puzzling that humanity has been given fiAliens exist, and now they need our help. After Earth is ruined by nuclear and environmental disasters, it is puzzling that humanity has been given fifteen habitable planets to start a fresh. The Jackaroo assist with the move to the new planets, infrastructure is built and humanity is saved. Chloe Millar is mapping out the changes caused by importing alien technology when she stumbles upon a pair of orphaned children that appear to be possessed by an ancient ghost. On one of the new planets, Vic Gayle is investigating a murder in a remote excavation site that could lead to a war between rival gangs. Something is Coming Through is a new novel by prolific science fiction novelist Paul McAuley.
Something is Coming Through interlinks the story of Chloe Millar and Vic Gayle, all the while trying to understand why the Jackaroo are helping humanity. The premise of this book sounded too intriguing to pass up; think a science fiction crime novel that explores the concept of first contact. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work within the book; it tries to do so much but everything moves too slowly to make it enjoyable. Even the Jackaroo sound like they are an interesting race but there is no real exploration into their motivations which really hurt the novel.
I am not sure if I am no longer into reading science fiction; it has been a while since I enjoyed this genre (with the exception of Russian sci-fi). Or maybe I just need to stick to the classics, those novels from the 60s and 70s that explore sociology and philosophy. I just found Something is Coming Through to be a very bland novel that relied too heavily on dialogue. I have to accept the fact that I enjoy novels with substance that explore themes or ideas over plot; this is why Russian sci-fi is still great.
I struggle to find anything positive to say about Something is Coming Through; it is one of those occasions where I should have abandoned the book. I honestly cannot even remember why I decided to pick this book up but I was intrigued by the premise. Sadly I found nothing enjoyable about this novel and I do not know if I will try Paul McAuley again. I would like to think I was willing to try authors again but at the moment, there is no way.
Angelus Thomsen is an officer working at Auschwitz; on August 1942 he gains his first sight of Hannah Doll, the wife of the camp’s commandant. After aAngelus Thomsen is an officer working at Auschwitz; on August 1942 he gains his first sight of Hannah Doll, the wife of the camp’s commandant. After a few encounters, their relationship becomes more intimate. Despite their attempts to be discreet, Hannah’s husband Paul becomes suspicious. He threatens a Jewish Sonderkommando into killing his wife. However things are not that simple and life is far more complex.
The Zone of Interest is Martin Amis’ fourteenth novel and the second to focus on the holocaust (his 1991 novel Time’s Arrow being the other). The novel is told from prospective of three narrators; Angelus Thomsen, Paul Doll and Szmul the Sonderkommando. This allows Amis to explore the three different sides of this budding romance and betrayal, however what it does not talk about is far more interesting. Thomsen and Doll are so focused on Hannah, while Szmul is unwillingly dragged into this complex situation.
I found the plot to be a bit flat and the ending of this novel anti-climactic but it was Martin Amis was not saying that really stuck out to me. The way Amis told the story allowed the reader focus on the melodrama of this love triangle but we have to remember this was set in Auschwitz. We can explore the indifference towards human suffering and the prisoner’s general psychology without the need to talk too much about this situation. Szmul’s narrative does focus more on the life in the concentration camp from a Jewish point-of-view but it is the Germans’ lack of interest that stuck with me. The more I think about this novel, the more I admire the way Amis wrote this book. I cannot think of another novel that explores an issue like this by actively trying to avoid the topic.
At the time of reading this book, I found this novel to be average. However, it was the post-reading experience that really stuck with me, and I really appreciate the satirical approach Martin Amis took. I am determined to try some more of his works; I need to find out if he uses satire consistently in his novels. I would love to know which novel I should check out next from Martin Amis.
In the title story “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells the story of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A specialist recommIn the title story “The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman tells the story of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A specialist recommends that she takes rest cure; a treatment in which has her lying in bed all day and only allowed two house of intellectual activities a day. After a few months of staring at the walls, things are far from improving.
While this is a collection of short stories, I am focusing on the title story simple because it gives you a sense of what to expect when reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “The Yellow Wallpaper” explores the decline of the protagonist’s health, both physically and mentally. Written in a series of diary entries, the story not only looks at depression but, on a deeper level, gender roles. The doctor and her husband are portrayed as repressors; while their intentions are to help her heal they never take into account her own opinion.
This in turn critiques that position of the woman, especially when it comes to the institution of marriage. Gilman looks at marriage as a hierarchy; the male is actively working and knows what is best for the house, while the wife is put in charge of the domestic jobs (cooking, cleaning and so on). The wife becomes a second class citizen; a servant only there to serve her husband. When the protagonist of “The Yellow Wallpaper” gets sick she is demoted further and her role becomes similar to a petulant child.
While I have focused on the story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, these similar themes are found throughout this collection. What I found so satisfying is the way Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses irony to express her opinions. The use of both verbal and dramatic irony is found in all her stories but I enjoyed the sarcasm the most. There is a lot of symbolism and motifs within the stories well worth exploring that really empathises her point.
I loved this collection of short stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, there are so many interesting topics worth exploring and I used “The Yellow Wallpaper” to emphases and provide a glimpse into what you can expect. I am determined to read a whole lot more of Gilman’s works, I fell in love with her writing style and got so much pleasure out of reading these stories. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories is a collection of stories well worth picking up and adding to your personal library.
The world of short stories has had a rocky history, but every now and then there are authors that make you excited about a collection of stories againThe world of short stories has had a rocky history, but every now and then there are authors that make you excited about a collection of stories again. When I think about great short story collections, I think Raymond Carver with his book What We Talk About When We Talk about Love, George Sanders (especially his recent collection Tenth of December) and now Molly Antopol with her debut collection The UnAmericans. Even I have to admit that I have often struggled with short stories but then something like The UnAmericans comes along and I feel ready to take on more collections.
Molly Antopol is a lecturer at Stanford University where she teaches as part of their writing program. In 2013, she was one of the recipients of the “5 Under 35″ award from the National Book Foundation, which highlights five young writers to watch and she has been someone well worth watching. Her debut, The UnAmericans was nominated for countless awards including the National Jewish Book Award and the National Book Award. Though her collection of short stories did not take home any major awards, this is the start of a very promising career for Molly Antopol and is someone I plan to follow closely.
The UnAmericans is a collection full of stories about families, heritage, identity and all the things that define us as humans. With a strong focus on immigration this book is a post 9/11 exploration into America. Exploring the lives of all those people that might have felt excluded as American due to difference in heritage, skin colour, religion, and political or moral beliefs. While it does not typically focus on America or events post 9/11, it is the kind of story that could have only been told after a tragedy like that day.
Each character is richly developed, coming from places like Kiev, Prague, Tel Avid and Soviet Moscow, the stories all explore the same similar themes but in away that never feels repetitive or preachy. Antopol appears to be interested in exploring peoples differences and similarities and trying to get the message across that we are all the same. All the different places these people live in and they all want the very same things, love and acceptance. While their heritage often plays a big part in their identity it doesn’t make them UnAmerican; we are all humans.
I was extremely impressed and it made me want to read more short stories; if Molly Antopol can give so much depth into her characters as she did in The UnAmericans then it makes me excited for the rest of the genre. I did go on to read another collection of short stories right after this one, this time it was by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I hate to say it; The UnAmericans was great but then going on to read The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories, changed everything yet again.
Journalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recJournalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recreational drugs, LSD, ether, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol, their assignment was quickly abandoned. What follows is a series of hallucinogenic trips that end in disaster from trashed hotel rooms, car wrecks and much more. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a roman à clef, with autobiographical elements in which Hunter S. Thompson writes a retrospective of the 1960s countercultural movement.
Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist, but he was best known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While working in Journalism he coined the term Gonzo journalism which is a writing style he adopted for his first person narratives. The style is a combination of fact and fiction that allows Thompson a more personal approach to his articles. Combining elements of sarcasm, humour, exaggeration and profanity it allowed a first person look into social criticism. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a result of Gonzo journalism and was originally published as a two part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.
When thinking about the life of Hunter S. Thompson, I find it hard to imagine him as someone who critiques the 1960s counterculture. I think of him saying things like “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Thompson has often stated that this novel was an exploration into the death of the American Dream but his views on counterculture are so fascinating. Drawing inspiration from his two favourite novels The Great Gatsby and On The Road, Thompson combines ideas of travelogue and the American Dream and goes on to show the reason why drug use was not the answer to social problems.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pretty confronting novel; the descriptions of drug-induced hazes and lurid hallucinogenic trips are very vivid and confronting. I am pretty sure I have read this book in the past but I had not marked it as read on Goodreads, LibraryThing or even the spreadsheet I keep. However going into the novel everything felt so familiar and I cannot tell if it was due to the movie adaptation or if I have actually read the book before.
The experience of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is enhanced by the illustrations done by Ralph Steadman. My edition of the book stated in the introduction that Hunter S. Thompson requested the art to be done by Steadman because he believed this illustrator really understood the concept of Gonzo journalism. The novel is an interesting book and well worth exploring, and I was interested to see the satirical side and surprised at the way Thompson criticised his own lifestyle in this autobiographical novel.
Detective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills aDetective Inspector James Quill is a member of the Shadow Police, a squad dedicated to solving supernatural crimes. When an invisible murderer kills a high profile cabinet minister in an unusual way, the Shadow Police are called to solve it. Things take a turn when the lead detective from the squad goes missing. Things start to fall apart; can Quill solve this mystery and bring the team back together?
I was really enjoying the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch lately and I thought I would look for more urban fantasy novels that centred around a detective, when I remembered London Falling. I loved this book which was the first in the Shadow Police series; it was dark gritty and blended police procedural with urban fantasy really well. I read it a while ago and thought it was time to try book two, The Severed Streets. Unfortunately this book did not hold up and suffered the same fate as Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams (book two in the Bobby Dollar series).
While London Falling went for a dark and gritty, noir feel to it, The Severed Streets seemed to go in a different direction. It felt too gimmicky and I felt like Paul Cornell was offered a book deal based on this series but had already run out of ideas. First of all, the book is set in London, so it obviously had to reference the 1800s Whitechapel murders. Jack the Ripper has been done to death, especially in urban fantasy; I was immediately reminded of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Also this book has Neil Gaiman as a character and I never enjoy it when they use living people as characters. It is a little hit and miss when a book includes a famous person who is deceased but when it comes to living people, it is normally always a miss.
I feel so angry about this book but mainly because I went in thinking it would be like London Falling. I would have been better off not reading this book and just letting the first novel remain a standalone. Take out Jack the Ripper and Neil Gaiman or replace these characters, and it might have been a decent book. However, for me, it was just a gimmick that did not work. I will not be continuing with the Shadow Police and I have to start my search for a new dark, gritty urban fantasy series to enjoy.
Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar does everything by-the-book, he is organised and knowledgeable on the laws of the land but thiAssociate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar does everything by-the-book, he is organised and knowledgeable on the laws of the land but this tends to rub people the wrong way. When a body is found burnt beyond recognition, Chacaltana’s life is never going to be the same. The investigation into this unique murder leads the associate District Prosecutor to question the choices the government are making. Set during Holy Week in Peru, Red April is a chilling political thriller that explores a twisted murder and a morally bankrupt government.
Red April takes place during Lent 2000, mainly in the Peruvian city of Ayacucho and follows a methodical prosecutor as he investigates a bizarre crime. These were the final days of Alberto Fujimori who vacated the presidency and fled the country in November 2000 due to a major corruption scandal and allegations of human rights violations. When Fujimori came to power in 1990, Peru was dominated by two terrorist organisations, the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso and the Marxist-Leninist organisations known as Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). It was not until about 1997 when most of this internal conflict resolved, but this was achieved by the Grupo Colina, which was a death squad made up of members of the Peruvian Armed Forces.
Set in the early 2000s, this novel explores that period of time where people loved Alberto Fujimori for making them feel safe but corruption is becoming a big problem. Even the main protagonist struggled with the idea of not supporting the president. Saying something like “the terrorist killed my mother, brother and sister but since the president took office, no one else from my family has been killed. Why would I vote for somebody else?” This hold on the past is something that runs strong throughout the novel, particularly with Associate District Prosecutor Felix Chacaltana Saldivar who holds on to the memory of his mother. The book is set during Lent and then Holy Week which is a time of reflection and to remember the past, when Christ died for the sins of the world.
Peru is a very religious country, in the 2007 census only 2.9% identified as non-religious, with 81.3% claiming to be Roman Catholic. The Catholic Church is a very important part of the country, even Article 50 of its constitution states that “[the Church is] an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation.” The city of Ayacucho, in which the majority of this novel is set. lays claim to 33 Catholic Churches (one for every year of Jesus’ life) and hosts a large religious celebration during Holy Week every year. When reading Red April you quickly learn just how important religion is to the Peruvian people and the plot of the novel.
One of the things that fascinated me about Red April is the culture depicted within the book. Santiago Roncagliolo did not shy away from depicting the dark themes or the problematic political situation that Peru faces. He questions the counter-terrorism strategies of the Fujimori government but also depicts the overall sense of relief that the people had when terrorist organisations were dealt with. The corrupt government and the bureaucratic nightmare that Felix lived through all gave a sense of the political landscape. The Associate District Prosecutor did everything to the letter of the law, including sending rapists to prison; however this made him an outcast, even the rape victims got angry that they were unable to marry their attackers and get their reputation intact.
One reason I read a lot of translated fiction is because I find it interesting to explore different cultures and worlds. The Peru depicted in Red April is so foreign to me that I could not help but be spellbound by the cultural differences. Red April was the 2011 winner of the International Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP), a literary award I have started to follow closely now that I read more books in translation. The novel was translated into English by Edith Grossman and is a book that I picked up in order to read more books from South America. I am very glad to have read Red April, not only is it an excellent mystery/thriller but as you can see it was an interesting insight into Peru.