Trust by Domenico Starnone translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
We follow Pietro through marriage to a fellow teacher, literary celebrity and fatherhood. Yet, across the years, he’s still haunted by Teresa, and what she knows about him. Her knowledge seems to serve as his conscience, making him a better person. But it comes with a cost in the form of a bucketload of anxiety.
I wondered about the author’s decision to withhold the secret from the reader. Perhaps he felt it would be a distraction from the theme of the tensions between our public persona and private selves. But it left me feeling there wasn’t enough material for a novel and it would have been more successful as a short story.
Having enjoyed a couple of Domenico Starnone’s previous novels translated into English – firstly Trick and then Ties, which was one of my favourite reads of 2020 – I was a little disappointed in Trust. Thanks nevertheless to publishers, Europa Editions, for my review copy.
Blue Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu
The text that prophesied his birth and life predicts he’ll be tested three times on his tenth birthday, and his father will do whatever it takes to ensure he proves his divinity. Kalki, although anxious about the responsibility, will do whatever it takes to make his father proud.
As his fame grows, foreigners and rich Indians visit the ashram, opening Kalki’s eyes to other possibilities, other worlds. Yet, with his mother’s emotional withdrawal, and Lakshman and his parents’ emigration to America, Kalki feels increasingly alone. But it’s not until his early twenties, when he and his father embark on his long-anticipated world tour, that Kalki truly questions everything he’s been taught.
I enjoyed this unusual coming-of-age story about a young man’s struggle to separate from a father who has sacrificed his son to fulfil his own warped dreams. Knowing a little Hindu scripture, I loved the references to stories I recognised and, having stayed in an Indian ashram as well as in a village in rural Tamil Nadu, the setting resonated for me. But the conflicts for the ‘special’ child created to satisfy his parents cut across continents and cultures. Anyone who’s ever been disillusioned – and haven’t we all? – should enjoy this book. Thanks to publishers Legend Press for my advance proof copy.
My debut novel, Sugar and Snails, is also about a character with a secret, although Diana’s public persona is limited to her university students and colleagues. Click on the image below to learn more.
Yes, I’d like to help make The Age of Staggered Breathing better
Meanwhile, I continue attention seeking for my latest novel, Matilda Windsor is Coming Home. Here’s a recent podcast recorded with Stuart Wakefield and the link to reviews from Matty’s blog tour earlier this month to mark World Mental Health Day.
But I did my research, and discovered a candy kitchen is a sweet shop where the product is made on the premises. In composing my 99-word story around geographical and cultural differences in the use of the English language, and managed to fit in two celebrities. Unfortunately, both William Wordsworth and Sarah Nelson are long dead.
People often asked for directions to Wordsworth’s grave, but this was a first.
“There’s a soup kitchen in Barrow.” Where tourists never go.
“Not soup. Candy!”
“What kind of candy where you were after?” Was he blind? Her shelves heaved with glass jars: aniseed balls; sherbet lemons; sarsaparilla drops. Stacks of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake.
“It’s made on the premises.”
“There’s a chocolatier in Orton.” Miles away.
“Is it the famous one? Established in 1854?”
She sent him to Sarah Nelson’s. Grasmere gingerbread was renowned the world over. Neither bread, cake, nor biscuit. Call it candy if you will.