Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce Reviewed by Annabel Since I discovered the feelgood novels by French author Antoine Laurain, brought to us in translation by Gallic Books, I’ve seized upon each new release upon publication. Vintage 1954 is his seventh, his first new work since French Rhapsody, which I reviewed for Shiny here,…

Selfies by Sylvie Weil

Translated by Ros Schwartz Reviewed by Karen Langley The selfie might seem to be a very modern phenomenon; the sight of people constantly stretching their arms out and craning to get a snap of themselves in a special location or with a famous person has become commonplace. We live in a modern age characterised by…

The Cracks in our Armour by Anna Gavalda

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Harriet Way back in the early days of Shiny (issue 5 to be exact) I reviewed Anna Gavalda’s slender novel Billie. As I said in that review, I was first introduced to Gavalda in a French class, where we were reading and translating her celebrated novel Ensemble, C’est Tout,…

The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

Translated by Euan Cameron Reviewed by Harriet In this magical novel, we are in Japan, many many years ago. The small, unremarkable village of Shimae lies on the banks of the river Kusagawa, which for many years has provided an income for the village. For wonderfully large and beautiful carp can be caught in the…

Adèle by Leïla Slimani

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Annabel Slimani’s first novel to be translated into English, Lullaby, took the English-speaking publishing world by storm. It was a literary thriller telling the story of a murderous nanny and what made her that way, (reviewed by Harriet here). It was the must-read book at the time, an instant…

No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel

Translated by Stephanie Smee Reviewed by Harriet When I was first offered this book for review, I turned it down, for reasons that are now not clear to me. Then I had second thoughts and how glad I am that I did. If I say it’s my best read for 2019 that’s not saying much,…

The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc

Translated by Derek Coltman Reviewed by Karen Langley There’s been a buzz recently about Penguin’s (re?) launch of their European Writers series, with the first two books by Mercè Rodoreda and Cesare Pavese garnering much online attention. The series has been described as an initiative to promote European literature to British readers; radical, perhaps, in…

The Bright Side of Life by Emile Zola

Translated by Andrew Rothwell Reviewed by Harriet Fans of Monty Python may have a bit of trouble with this title – I’ve had their iconic song stuck in my head for weeks. In French the novel was called La Joie de Vivre – the joy of life – and I’m not convinced that the new…

Vernon Subutex 2 by Virginie Despentes

Translated by Frank Wynne Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies Almost two decades ago I saw a French movie called Baise-moi. It contained, besides much simulated violence, what Wikipedia fastidiously calls ‘several unsimulated sex scenes’. Yes, actual fucking and sucking, the two principals being played, necessarily, by porn actresses. Filth at the arthouse? Sort of, along with…

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

Translated by Tina Kover Reviewed by Marina Sofia With a blurb promising a story of growing up in exile and even the title cleverly playing on words ‘disoriented’ and a sense of ‘disassociating’ oneself from ‘oriental’, this was always going to be a book that appealed to me. However, even if you are not as…

Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne (pbk)

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Gill Davies Having become rather jaded with the predictability of the crime fiction genre and wearied by the sheer number published, I’ve been interested to explore non-British novels. Then I found that Retribution Road is a historical novel with a British focus and wondered if I would be disappointed.…

Savages: The Wedding by Sabri Louatah

Translated by Gavin Bowd Reviewed by Annabel This debut novel is the first volume of Louatah’s planned Saint-Étienne quartet named after the French city in which its protagonists reside. Saint-Étienne is south-west of Lyon and capital of the Loire department, right in the middle-east of France. This is perhaps a deliberate choice, for the protagonists…

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Harriet Moroccan born novelist Leïla Slimani is not the first woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, though she’s only the 13th woman to do so since the prize was established in 1903. Her novel, Chanson Douce, now translated as Lullaby, is however the first…

A Love Story by Émile Zola

Translated by Helen Constantine Reviewed by Harriet Here at Shiny we’ve reviewed several of the new Oxford World Classics editions of the novels of Émile Zola: Money, Earth and The Conquest of Plassans. All three form part of the twenty-one volumes of what is known as the Rougon-Macquart series, published between 1871 and 1893. A…

Shadows and Sun by Dominique Sylvain

Translated by Neil Caistor Reviewed by Terence Jagger I enjoyed this book, set amongst the French police in Paris and in Abidjan, but that’s not to say I really followed it – it was most confusing. But Chandler apparently didn’t always understand his plots, so maybe that’s OK. One isn’t trying to follow clues or…

Portrait Antoine Laurain

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

Reviewed by Annabel Translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce French author Antoine Laurain has already got himself an army of fans (or should that be ‘armée’!) thanks to Gallic Books’ wonderful translations of his books. The first two were utterly charming, funny, yet touching and romantic novels, positioned just on the right side of…

The Santiago Pilgrimage by Jean-Christophe Rufin

Translated by Malcolm Imrie and Martina Dervis Reviewed by Terence Jagger Monsieur Rufin is an impressive man, having founded Médecins sans Frontières, been an ambassador for France in Senegal, written extensively in various genres, winning the Prix Goncourt, and was one of the youngest ever members of the Académie Française. I reviewed a novel of…

Maigret Goes to School by Georges Simenon

Reviewed by Harriet Translated by Linda Coverdale What was he doing there? A hundred times, in the middle of an investigation, he’d had the same feeling of helplessness or, rather, futility. He would find himself abruptly plunged into the lives of people he had never met before, and his job was to discover their most…

Checkpoint by Jean-Christophe Rufin

Translated by Alison Anderson Reviewed by Terence Jagger The first character we meet is Maud, a young and naive Frenchwoman who is apparently badly injured, being driven by Marc through the snow, pursued by forces they clearly fear but of which we know nothing. This prologue, it quickly appears, is not a prelude but a…

The Gardens of Consolation by Parisa Reza

Reviewed by Terence Jagger Translated by Adriana Hunter To the east, bare earth as far as the eye can see. To the west, hills … then on the horizon, mountains.  And a road, traced along the length of the desert, the length of the mountains, from Isfahan to Tehran.   That is the beginning of…