Just read, The Mussel Feast, Birgit Vanderbeke

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This book is a part of one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had. A thoughtful friend got me a Book A Month from Daunt Books, actually I don’t know if that’s what they call it but I get a new book in the post every month. My friend gave Daunt some ideas as to what I might like and told me to get in touch with the bookshop to give them further ideas. I was planning to and was finding it very hard to narrow it all down, by then the second book, The Mussel Feast arrived. I looked at it and thought, this is exactly the sort of book I’d like to read. I decided not to email Daunt after all because receiving a surprise book in the post is just fabulous! Think I will most certainly extend the subscription.

I read the book today, started this morning on bus on my way to work, finished on bus back from work. It is by Peirene Press who publish short books by European writers, books that you could read in one sitting. This is a great idea and, of course I immediately thought I should subscribe to this too! Ha! Those who have seen book posts on this blog may have noticed that I am slightly obsessed with buying books, then lamenting how I simply don’t have time to read them. Books new and old end up going on the ‘pile of shame’ (actually I have several of these) and it sometimes takes me years to get to them… So, I won’t be subscribing to Peirene Press right now but still think it’s a great idea. As luck would have it, I have (drum roll please) finished an essay I’ve been slaving over for weeks and weeks and now have a whole summer free before study continues in October. Am going to make a real effort to reduce ‘piles of shame’ and this was a very good, albeit easy start.

Birgit Vanderbeke’s book seems to be a bit of a classic in Germany according to the back sleeve. It was written in 1989, just before the fall of Berlin Wall and it’s a story of a family, sitting at a dinner table, waiting for the father to return home from work. Their story unfolds as they wait and it is funny, sad, even somewhat familiar. The ending is ambiguous and I will not say anything else about the plot other than I really enjoyed it. I loved it actually and was pretty baffled that it only got translated into English this year, I saw it reviewed in one of the national papers last month too (haven’t read the review though). We don’t get enough non-English authors here which is rather sad, especially when you see the sales of the new Dan Brown autopilot-without-a-course. It outsold the next book on the best sellers list ten times in its first week without counting e-book sales. The problem is that I have now read so many bad reviews of Dan Brown that I am itching to see how bad the book actually is… must resist, if I don’t, I know that I will be very, very angry with self.

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