Reading Horizons: Episode 6
The Chilli Bean Paste Clan (我们家) by Yan Ge
This was the May selection by the Asymptote Book Club. I took out a subscription at thebeginning of the year but I’ve yet to read any of them (until now). Apparently in 2014 it was described by Words Without Borders as a “delightfully irreverent” novel and China’s “best untranslated book.” It’s taken a few years but thanks to translator Nicky Harman we now have it in English.
In a small Sichuan town, preparations are underway for a party to mark the 80th birthday of the matriarch ‘Gran’. The celebrations will bring to a head sibling rivalry and unveil secrets from the past. I’m about 80 pages in and enjoying the portrait of ‘Dad’ who is boss of the family’s famous Sichuan chilli bean paste. He’s a heavy smoker and a womaniser who can’t live up to the success of his elder brother and has to contend with the competing demands of three women: wife, mistress and mother.
The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
I’ve been intending to read The Welsh Girl for quite some time. As a Welsh girl myself how could I possibly ignore this book? It’s the debut novel by Ho Davies and is set just as the second world war is staggering to a close. Despite their remote location, the people who live in rural Wales find their lives impacted by the war when soldiers arrive to build a new camp for German prisoners of war. Ho Davies uses this as a mechanism to consider issues of identity and belonging. Well worth reading
One of the book clubs I belong to has just chosen Missing Fay by Adam Thorpe for our July meeting. This has a similar plot to Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – the disappearance of a teenage girl though McGregor’s novel has a rural setting where Thorpe goes for an urban location. Reservoir 13 was one of favourite reads from 2017 so it’s going to be interesting to see whether Thorpe can top it.
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?