Books - Fiction

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Baker, Caroline Angus. Secrets of Spain Trilogy (Historical Fiction) - (New Zealand)

Set in Valencia Province, the series tells the story of two families, separated by the Spanish Civil War, reunited in the 21st C. Each book moves between two different timelines as they explore how past mistakes impact life today.

Blood in the Valencian Soil: Love and hate hidden in the legacy of the Spanish Civil War (2012)

March 1939 – as the Spanish Civil War ends, five Republicans in Cuenca know they are on the losing side and they could die as faceless statistics. 2009 – Luna and Cayetano want to find her “disappeared” grandfather and discover wounds yet to heal under Spain's “pact of forgetting.”

Vengeance in the Valencian Water (2014)

October 1957 – Guardia Civil officers devise a system of stealing babies to sell to Catholic families.

2010 – Luna & Cayetano discover a mass grave at Escondrijo; more ghosts tell the story of the '57 flood

Death in the Valencia Dust (2015)

September 1975 – Franco is dying, but his parting words leave a bitter legacy. Jaime Morales Pena, sword handler for Spain’s greatest bullfighter, finds himself caught up with Alazne, a Basque woman. With Franco's death, executions are handed down and Spain collapses into turmoil.

2015 – Luna still challenges “forgetting,”; Cayetano, reluctant to end his successful bullfighting career, the family must recognize their identity, Spain's turbulent present, and a potentially fractured future.

Craft, Kimberly.  Elizabeth Bathory: A Memorie: As Told by her Court Master, Benedict Deseo (Historical Novel, 2011) - (American)

Desiring to know the truth behind his infamous mother's crimes, young Count Paul seeks the only man still alive who can tell Countess Bathory's story, court master and confidante, Benedict Desso.  But, revealing the truth could destroy the man's sanity and ruin the family reputation which the count desperately wishes to preserve.

 

Ferrante, Elena; trans. Anna Goldstein.  The Lying Life of Adults (Italian, 2020)

Young Giovanna (Naples, 1900), moving from childhood to adolescent, is drawn into the world of her brutal, volatile Aunt Vittoria who challenges her to look closely at the lies her refined parents live.

 

Ferrante, Elena; trans. Anna Golstein.  The Neapolitan Quartet – (Italian, 2012-2015)

Portraits of Elena and Lila, intense, intelligent women as they face the ugly side of female experience: infidelity, reluctant motherhood, competitive friendship.

    My Brilliant Friend – childhood - in brutal 1950s Naples; longing for education; competition for mastery

    The Story of a New Name – adolescence - love affairs, diverging opportunities, and different paths

    Those who Leave and Those who Stay – adults – darker, political implications

    The Story of the Lost Child – maturity - relationships renewed in Naples

Refer  IWC-V TV - Neapolitan Quartet TV series adapted as My Brilliant Friend (2018-2020)

 

Ganieva, Alisa.  trans. Carol Apollonio.  The Mountain and the Wall (Novel, 2015) - (Dagestan)

Trying to make sense of a crazy world; satire of N. Caucasus as a mix of medieval custom, superstition, radicalism, capitalism, bling, Sovietica, technology; overlapping narratives, unreliable narrator, and a sense of writerly joy despite grim subject matter.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.  The Yellow Wallpaper (Novela, 1892) - (American) - several editions available

Semi-autobiographical account of a young mother's descent into madness as she is increasingly isolated by her physician-husband at a country retreat with a depressingly-papered yellow wallpaper room. Isolation was a typical "cure" for sensitive, fragile ladies -- no reading or writing either.

Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider (Fiction, 2003) - (New Zealand)

Pai, a young Maori (Whangara people) girl feels drawn as a leader of her village, but her grandfather rejects her claim. Your grandchildren might like to read this with you.

 

James, Henry.  The Portrait of a Lady  (Novel, 1881) – (American). Many reprints; look for one that includes James' own “Preface” which was written later.

Novel explores what might become of a spirited young lady should she suddenly inherit a fortune and gain independence.  Details differences between America and Europe. How well does a male author capture the essence of his female characters?  Also see James' Novella, The Turn of the Screw  (1898). 

 

Kepner, Susan Fulop, ed., trans.  The Lioness in Bloom: Modern Thai Fiction About Women (Anthology, 1996) – (American)

Collection of women's stories from Thailand mirror 20th C female life: sexuality, abuse, oppression, humor, injustice, heartless society, loneliness, difficult choices.

 

Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook (Novel, 2013) – (British-Rhodesia)

Complex account of a writer's journals as she searches for identity amid promises of a new feminist world. Nobel Prize 2007

 

Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party” and Other Stories (Stories, 1922) – (New Zealand-England). Penguin edition (2008) reviewed well.

Exquisite surfaces, beautiful depths, oblique approaches. Mansfield explores the unspoken, half-understood emotions of everyday experience.  Beautiful, profound.


Marti, Carme, trans. Ana Herra. The Dove of Ravensbruck (Historical Novel, 2012)

Novel based on the life of Neus Català;

Also see Ashes in the Sky, English title for Un cel de plom: La vida de Neus

Català (Catalan) and Cenizas en el Cielo (Spanish) - 2007

Also see: Mar Trallero Cordero, Neus Català: La dona antifeixista a Europa (Catalan, 2008)

“Neus Català, Dogged Anti-Fascist and Camp Survivor, Dies at 103” Obituary by Katharine Q. Seelye,

NY Times, 21 May 2019           https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/obituaries/neus-catala-dead.html

Radclyffe-Hall, Marguerite.  The Well of Loneliness (Novel, 1928) - (British)

The anguished life of Stephen Gordon, who identifies as a “male lesbian.” An early treatment of the theme that ended up in a British obscenity trial and the destruction of the book.  USA allowed publication after a long legal battle.

 

Robinson, Marianne.  Housekeeping  (Novel, 2004) – (American) Pulitzer Prize

Sisters Ruth and Lucille – orphaned by mother, grandmother, great aunts – end up with aunt Sylvie the “housekeeper” where they must deal with transience and memory, society constraining non-static world, pressure of conformity in a world in flux.

 

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Last Man, 3 vols.  (Novel, 1826) – (British)  Many reprints, some scholarly 

First dystopian novel, suppressed until 1960s, little-known follow-up to Frankenstein; set in 2073, traces the decline of civilization during a pandemic; gradual loss of friends, community, ideals.

 

Steil, Jennifer.  The Ambassador's Wife (Historical Novel, 2016) - (American)

Based on Steil's years in the middle east as “an Ambassador's wife.” Narrative moves forward and back forth exploring women’s friendships against the backdrop of intrigue, terrorism, art, privilege, freedom, family, sexuality. Contrasts the freedom of the city against the “protection” of the embassy.

 

Steil, Jennifer.  Exile Music  (Novel, 2020) - (American)

Based on Steil's years in La Paz; narrated by Orly, the young daughter of a Jewish family of musicians who escape from Vienna during WWII. They end up in Bolivia where many others settled. Explores difficulty of immigrants trying to communicate in a foreign land and struggling to overcome their losses.

 

Szabó, Magda. trans. Lex Rix; intro. Ali Smith. The Door (Novel, 2015, orig 2005) - (Hungarian)

An unsettling, inter-dependent relathionship between two very different women: Magda, an educated writer, and Emerence, an illiterate peasant who is Magda's housekeeper.  Also a film starring Helen Mirren. (2012)

 

Tersigni, Nicole; fwd. Jen Kirkman. Men to Avoid in Art and Life (Humor/art, 2020)

Mansplainers – very funny deadpan captions on art works in which men, who know less than the women, explain to the women what they should be doing or saying. 

 

Undset, Sigrid. Kristin Lavransdatter, 3 Vol.   (Epic Novel, 1920-1922) – (Norwegian)  “The Wreath,” “The Wife,” “The Cross.”  Nobel Prize, 1928.  Several editions, but be sure to read a translation by Tiina Nunnaly

Follows the life of a passionate, strong-willed woman set in 14th C. Norway; her  impetuous, irresponsible husband; her growing family; and the plague of 1349.

 

Walker, Alice.  In Love and Trouble:  Stories of Black Women (Stories, 1973)

Based upon stories women from various backgrounds told Walker as they search for love and dignity within a disturbing view of life in the South.

Webster, Jason – Inspector Max Camara mysteries (British/American/Spanish)

Not about women, but mysteries set in Valencia, our home. Each traces crimes set within the corruption of Valencia's various governing bodies.

Or the Bull Will Kill You (2011) – rigged bull fighting

A Death in Valencia (2012) – neighborhood “renewal” in Cabanal

The Anarchist Detective (2014) – saffron mafaia in Albacete

Blood Med (2014) – economic recession; homelessness

A Body in Barcelona (2015) – Catalan Independence

Fatal Sunset (2017) – right wing national intelligence outfit tied back to Franco

Wharton, Edith.  The House of Mirth  (Novel, 1905)

Tragic decline of Lily Bart who tries to make her way through the high demands of Gilded Age NY society but without without financial assets or a guardian/protector. 

Several film and TV adaptations.

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