Jessica Au’s Cold Enough For Snow: a journey through mists and memory

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Has anyone read Jessica Au’s recent novel, Cold Enough For Snow?  If so, I’d be most interested in hearing your reaction . . . .

Are you one of those organized souls who draws up a plan of action and then actually follows it?  Or are you, like me, a child of spontaneity, someone who prefers to meet on an ad hoc basis whatever life throws her way?  Fear not, gentle reader, that I’m going to ramble off on a comparison of differing life philosophies; rather, I’m merely trying to explain to myself just how my review of Stella Gibbons’ Nightingale Woods morphed into a post about Jessica Au’s Cold Enough For Snow!  Blame it on the publisher!

As I’ve probably remarked in the past, part of my bookish self-indulgence during the pandemic included a subscription to the New Classics Club run by New Direction press, which gives me a monthly “surprise” book selected by the editors from the latest additions to their catalogue.  February’s selection, Ms. Au’s Snow, arrived just as I was getting ready for a teeny little break from Gibbons’ charming but quite lengthy 1930s period piece.  Even before receiving my copy, however, I had noticed Au’s novel on the New Directions website and thought it sounded intriguing.  What could I do when fate literally placed in in my hands with last Friday’s mail?  Cold Enough For Snow is brief, really more a novella than a novel, clocking in at a mere ninety-five pages; I always prefer reading to writing, so wasn’t it quite natural to just skim a few pages while I took a break from Stella Gibbons?  It’s pretty clear where this is going, isn’t it?  After my experience with novels by Fleur Jaeggy and Dag Solstad, I suppose that I was a little naive in thinking that a skinny little novel would be more straightforward than one with a heftier page count, for I shortly discovered that Ms Au’s brief novel punches far above its weight.  In short, it’s been adieu, Nightingale Woods, at least for a few days while I gather my thoughts on this very interesting piece of avant-garde fiction.

This is my first encounter with Jessica Au, an Australian writer currently based in Melbourne.  Snow is her second novel; her debut, Cargo, was published by Picador in 2011 when Au was a mere twenty-five years old.  Snow won the Novel Prize, a biennial competition open to writers (published & unpublished) around the world; the prize recognizes works of literary fiction, written in English, “which explore and expand the possibilities of the form, and are innovative and imaginative in style.”  I thought it worth quoting from the Prize’s criteria, as it gives you quite an accurate idea of Au’s novel, which was selected from over 1500 entries.  Three international publishers, Fitzcarraldo Editions (U.K.), Giramondo Press (Australia) and New Directions (U.S.) jointly sponsor the competition, which gives a cash award ($10,000 U.S.) and ensures the simultaneous publication of the winning entry in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and North America.

The plot of Au’s novel is very simple.  It begins in the Tokyo airport, where a woman waits for her mother’s plane to arrive before the two begin a trip that she has carefully orchestrated through Japan.  Au never tells us the name of either character.  We quickly learn that the trip is important to the daughter “for reasons she could not yet name” and that her mother had initially refused to come, reluctantly succumbing only after being “pushed.”  The two no longer live in the same city; we learn later that the daughter in fact has never seen the apartment into which her mother has moved.  From the opening paragraphs Au requires the reader to be actively engaged in piecing together her story.  Au tells us that the mother’s suitcase seems “almost new,” even though the daughter remembers it from her childhood, when her mother had “brought it down for the few trips she’d made back to Hong Kong, like for when her father died, and then her brother.”  (page 2)  It is the reader who fleshes out the narrative by inferring that the mother has seldom traveled since her long-ago emigration from Hong Kong to a western country, where her daughters have grown up, and that she had few close relatives or ties strong enough to draw her back to Hong Kong.  This is a very simple example of Au’s subtle and ambiguous narrative technique.  As the novel progresses, the interactions between the mother and daughter become more opaque and the reader is given fewer, and much more subtle, clues as to their motivation and meaning.  Although Au’s style is a world apart from that of Henry James, I find her narrative technique to be reminiscent of James’ in his late novels.  For both these very different artists what is unsaid between the characters can be more important than what is verbalized; both writers require the reader to participate actively in their art.

One striking aspect of Snow is that the daughter narrates the entire novel, meaning that we see the characters’ interactions entirely from her point of view.  Conversations and the mother’s remarks are recounted solely by the daughter, who speaks directly to the reader:

I had chosen Japan because I had been there before, and although my mother had not, I thought she might be more at ease exploring another part of Asia.  And perhaps I felt this would put us on equal footing in some way, to both be made strangers.  I had decided on autumn, because it had always been our favorite season.  The gardens and parks would be at their most beautiful then; the late season, everything almost gone.  I had not anticipated that it might still be a time for typhoons.  Already * * *  it had been raining steadily since our arrival. 

In the days that follow their arrival in Tokyo the two visit museums, temples and art galleries that the daughter has chosen, stay at inns that the daughter has booked and eat at restaurants that the daughter has selected.  And all the time she is probing, probing for her mother’s reaction to what they are experiencing or to episodes from the past.  She clearly wants something from her interaction with her mother, but what and why is a mystery.  The rain, “a light, fine rain, as can sometimes happen in Tokyo in October,” is omnipresent; almost as much of a character as the mother herself, it lends a haunting quality to a novel that is peopled with specters.  Weaving backwards and forwards in time, we learn about the narrator’s absent sister and her family; that dead uncle in Hong Kong; the past events that shaped the narrator’s personality; and Laurie, the narrator’s great love (is he her husband? I don’t think this is ever made clear) and her companion on her previous trip to Japan.  Sister, uncle, lover — physically absent, their presence haunts the narration.  Equally vivid are the absences.  The narrator’s father is never mentioned, nor is the reason for this particular trip at this particular time.

It’s possible to enjoy Snow on many levels.   At the most superficial, there is the sheer beauty of the language and the spare but gorgeous descriptions of the country through which the two women travel.  Au writes with great vividness about the physical aspect of the women’s trip — the museums they visit, the temples they see, the ordinary life that they observe around them.  Her unnamed narrator has an incredible feeling for art and the ability to convey what she is experiencing simply and elegantly.  Despite the distance created by keeping her characters nameless, Au’s story contains real emotion.  There was, here and there, a sentence that stabbed me to the heart, as when the narrator envisions the time when she and her sister will go to their mother’s apartment, the one she has never seen, “with the single task of sorting through a lifetime of possessions, packing everything away,” knowing that “whether out of too much, or too little sentiment,” she would keep nothing (page 78).  At another earlier point in the novel, the daughter actually seems to be remembering (page 5), rather than anticipating, a time when she and her sister “were cleaning everything out of” her mother’s flat, an obvious duty that we survivors perform for our dead.

And what of a deeper meaning, beyond these surface levels?  Each reader will no doubt draw different conclusions from this subtle and enigmatic story.  The novel certainly speaks at least in part to the nature of memory, of how the impressions and sensations that form identity may, or may not, be true or at least factually accurate.  In one of the novel’s most beautiful (if sentimental) sections the narrator recalls a story of her dead uncle in Hong Kong, of the great love affair he had as a young man, a story that was repeatedly told to her as a child.  When, years later and now an adult questioning her mother about it, her mother denies such a thing ever happened and her sister also has no memory of it.

Even more than the mysteries of memory, however, I think Au is telling us that it’s impossible to know another person through intellectual analysis or objective facts.  As a young woman the daughter was fiercely intellectual, consumed by “the need to make every moment pointed, to read meaning into everything.”  (page 29).  Her mother by contrast (page 57) believed that people were too “hungry to know everything,” mistakenly thinking they “could understand it all, as if enlightenment were just around the corner;” that understanding lessened no pain and that “the best we could do in this life was to pass through it, like smoke through the branches.”  As their time together draws to a close, the daughter thinks that “the trip had not done what I wanted it to,” while her mother smiles “as if she were simply happy that we were in each other’s company, and to have no need for words.”  (page 88)  Perhaps Au is suggesting that this wordless contentment in each other’s company is enough; that in the end we will each remain a mystery to others.

Towards the close of the novel, after the two women have left Tokyo, an incident occurs that casts some doubt on my entire understanding of the daughter’s trip.  To discuss it further would be a bit of a spoiler (besides, you might not agree with me!) so I’ll say no more about it here.  I can’t resist remarking, however, that it very strongly reminded me of one aspect of A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray, a beautiful French novella (that also takes place in autumn) that was beautifully reviewed last summer by Jacquiwine.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, Cold Enough For Snow was published by New Directions, an independent publisher based in New York City that was founded in 1936 by a twenty-two year old James Laughlin, when he was told by Ezra Pound that his poetry was “hopeless,” and that he should finish Harvard and do something “useful” (publisher’s website).  New Directions publishes works in a variety of genres and from countries around the world; its list of authors includes Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Jorge Luis Borges, William Carlos Williams and many others.  As an independent publisher, Au’s novel qualifies for Kaggsy’s and Lizzie’s 2022 #ReadIndies event.

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41 thoughts on “Jessica Au’s Cold Enough For Snow: a journey through mists and memory

    1. Hi Neil — hope all is well! As for Ms Au’s novella, well, wouldn’t it be a boring old world if we all liked the same things? I’m actually reading a lot of modernist fiction these days, thanks to my subscription to New Directions. I’ve enjoyed it, but I think it’s time for some more straightfoward fare, probably an old favorite like the Queen’s Gambit (have you come across Walter Tevis? his stuff is really good)
      I’ve read very little by Henry Miller, I’m afraid and not for many years (I’m afraid I was very young and that particular book was considered very naughty at the time. I had to hide it). From the little I know, he was an amazing guy, with talent in the visual arts as well as writing.

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  1. Well I have read this and loved it and agree with all of your wonderful review. And without giving a spoiler, I think I know the part you mean which undermines your response to the previous parts of the book… I agree… It’s a marvellous piece of writing and I’m still thinking about it!

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    1. Hi Kaggsy — glad you enjoyed the review and thanks for the feedback concerning your reaction to the book. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much Au managed to pack into those scant 95 pages? I ended up posting about Snow simply because, like you, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
      It was difficult to know what, or how much, to say about the “spoiler” passage, particularly as it’s open to more than one interpretation. Au is far too careful a writer, however, not to have it mean something significant. Combined with the two instances I did mention, of the narrator’s vision of her mother’s apartment (particularly the one that seems to be an actual memory), well . . . this morning at least, I’m inclined to go there! (may think differently tonight) At the very least, it’s more support for the notion that memories, which form our identity, are shifting and unreliable things.

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      1. There really WAS something “off” about her, wasn’t there? Not only was that travel schedule a bit, ahem, rigid, but I found myself thinking “you planned that hike for your elderly mother” (remember at the end, the mother asks for help putting on her shoes)? I must admit I’m always a sucker for an unreliable narrator; I do get fooled very time!

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    1. Laura — glad you dropped by. I actually enjoyed Snow just for its “travelogue” aspects, which are very good (if Au hasn’t traveled there, she’s really good at faking it). I’m dying to travel and Japan’s pretty high on the list; alas, all those plans are still on hold . . .

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      1. I was lucky enough to visit Japan in 2019, but only for a week – if I’d known Covid was coming I’d have massively extended my stay! It’s also top of my list when travel is possible again.

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      2. I’m envious of that trip! Isn’t it amazing, how much we’ve all missed just the ability to see a different part of the world? The year before the pandemic, I was preparing for a long-distance relocation and didn’t travel at all, a decision that I now massively regret. Even this year, when things are still easing up, I’ll probably just stick to short domestic trips (I’m trying to convince myself that this will be just as much fun . . . ).

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  2. Gorgeous review of what sounds like a very intriguing book! Funnily enough, I actually have a copy of the Fitzcarraldo edition on my TBR pile, courtesy of our Independent Alliance rep at the bookshop. (I thought it sounded really good from the description in their new releases bulletin, so I’m delighted to see such a positive review from you.)

    Thanks also for linking to my piece on A Sunday in Ville d’Avray. That’s particularly lovely to see as I’ve been hoping that the Au might have a similar ‘feel’ to the Barberis (hooray!) and Elisa Shua Dusapin’s novella Winter in Sokcho. (Not sure if you’ve read the latter, but if not, you’d almost certainly enjoy it.) I love the haunting quality of these elusive / enigmatic stories, something about them really gets under my skin. So, to wrap up, I’ll definitely be reading the Au, probably sooner rather than later!

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    1. Hello JacquiWine — delighted as always you dropped by, particularly as I haven’t been checking blogs lately (I just discovered Kaggsy’s excellent review of Au’s novel!). Hopefully you’ll share your take on Au if you get to her; while being very different from Barberis, Snow definitely put me in mind of the latter. I think I noted that both stories take place in autumn and they both have that “autumnal” feel to them as well as (as you say) that haunting elusive quality.
      I do have a copy of Winter in Sokcho, but haven’t yet read it. So nice to have it to look forward to!

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  3. Just finished Childhood, Youth, Dependency. Thank you, thank you. This has catapulted straight into my top 20 books read. I loved it. And what a horrific kick at the end with the drug addiction. I note that you said you thought the Dependency part different from the first two parts. I think this is because most coming-of-age memoirs stop at around 18, when childhood ends. Somehow the continuation never seems to work well. This did work but I think it would have been even better as two books.
    You are a reader of the very highest discernment in my books (enjoy the pun). Now on to Miss Iceland.

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    1. Michelle — oh, the pun was very funny (I’m terrible at puns, but I do enjoy them). Thanks so much for the great compliment and for letting me know how much you enjoyed the Copenhagen Trilogy. Childhood was really wonderful, wasn’t it? I’m still amazed that Ditlevsen could be so poetic with such unflowery language and so emotionally acute, particularly regarding her relationship with her mother.
      The Dependency section was quite horrific, so much so that I became a little hardened to what was going on. I agree with you that it did work, but, like you I preferred the earlier two sections. I can’t quite remember at this point, but I think that Ditlevsen wrote Dependency a good many years after she wrote the other two, and shortly before her death, so that might explain the difference in tone (and even style).
      I do hope you enjoy Miss Iceland as much as I did but . . . every reader comes to books differently, nest-ce pais? It’s frightening to me to realize how much my mood sometimes influences my reaction to a particular book! If you do get to Miss I, I’ll be very interested to hear your reaction.

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      1. Michelle — fabulous piece, you really conveyed the horror and humor of this turning point, when you realized you would be the caretaker (I’m assuming this is a memoir, rather than a piece of fiction). You must have suffered from PTSD after surviving these teenage years.
        Have you come across Jacki Lyden’s memoir, Daughter of the Queen of Sheba? I heard Lyden, an NPR correspondent and child of a manic-depressive mother, interviewed many years ago about her experiences; the book sounded fascinating.

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      2. Yes, it’s memoir. Thank you for reading. No, I haven’t heard of Lyden’s memoir. But will get onto it right now. If you recommend it, enough said.

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  4. This is a new author and publisher for me and both sound wonderful, I want to find out more about the daughter and the mother, that she thinks we all think enlightenment is just around the corner is interesting and funny!

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  5. Jane — I had to laugh at your comment about the mother, because her view really struck me as well. It was just so realistic in the sense that it was precisely the remark a mother might make (I could hear my own mother in those words). I think you put your finger on one very powerful element in the book — a reader really wants to know more about what’s going on between the mother and daughter, it’s that desire that really hooks you into the story.
    I discovered New Directions about a year ago and at this point have read maybe three or four of its publications. My normal comfort zone has been very traditional works, many from the 19th or early 20th century, so the books from ND have at times been a stretch for me. I’ve loved exploring them, however, and I’m slowly expanding my boundaries a bit. If you like to browse websites BTW New Directions has a very good one.

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  6. Hi Janakay. Another lovely review that makes me want to get a copy of the book and read it immediately.

    I also appreciate those shorter novels that make me slow down and read carefully. I might like Henry James’ later works more were they a wee bit shorter.

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  7. Ruthiella! I’m so delighted you clicked by (I’ve been routinely checking your blog). I’m glad you enjoyed the review. It took me quite awhile to write it asI was slow to put my thoughts in order. My natural bent is for much more traditional, realistic work, so much of New Directions fiction is a challenge for me and this book was no exception. You’re quite right that it’s a novel that repays slow and careful reading. I thoughtt I’d finish it in an afternoon but I basically read it over a three day period.
    I thought of you when I was doing my list for the Back to the Classics challenge because my first impulse choice for one of the categories was Durrell’s Justine. I remembered reading your review (was it last year?), which was less than glowing, in contrast to my own memories of the book, which I loved. Well, I read a few pages of Justine last month and the glow just wasn’t there for me. I must admit that I was disappointed, as this was such a change from my previous reaction many years before. I’m going to wait for an opportune time and then try it again, hoping that I’ll find the same magic that held me so strongly during my previous read.
    Speaking of which — what’s on your list these days? Any treasures you’d recommend for my TBR list?

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    1. Hi Janakay. I am working on my Back to the Classics 2022 list and hope to post it soonish. Re: Justine, I have read that to read all four of the Durrell books does provide a sense of completeness. Accordingly, I am hoping once I have read the other three books in the quartet that I will feel a little bit more positive about Justine.

      In fact, I did just finish a book that demanded and rewarded slow, careful reading. It was Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker. First published in 1962, I read a NYRB edition. So if you haven’t read it already, I would recommend it to you.

      If you want a book that is easy to read but nonetheless very powerful, I highly recommend The Trees by Percival Everett. I read it for the 2022 Tournament of Books shortlist. This is the fourth book by Everett that I have read. I think he is probably one of the best American novelists living and yet, he isn’t known enough IMO. I think Oprah should put him on her list and give him that wider audience he deserves.

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      1. Ruthiella: so glad you’re doing the Classics Challenge! I look forward to seeing your list, as your choices are always interesting. Re Justine: I’m worried about my reaction, as I loved it so much before; it was actually one of my favorite exotic reads. I’m hoping I was simply tired and a bit stressed and my next attempt at a re-read will go better.
        I have in fact read Cassandra at the Wedding a few years ago. For some strange reason I expected a comedy (!!!), don’t ask me why (ignorance I guess). I was a little taken aback to discover that it was, as you say, a book that demanded a slow and careful read. Like you, I thought it merited the attention and marked it down for a re-read.
        Thanks for the recommendation of The Trees. I’m getting ready for a road trip back to my old haunts (Washington, D.C.) so, yes, I would very much like a powerful, easy to read novel (I’m browsing for one now). I will most definitely check it out. To my shame, I’m totally unfamiliart with Percival Everett. Hopefully I’ll like him as much as you do, as he seems to be pretty prolific. It’s really sad when a good writer falls into the cracks and is forgotten, or never quite gets the audience he/she deserves. Too bad we can’t email Ms. Oprah . . .

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  8. It is always nice to find a novella that is good, and I put ‘Cold Enough for Snow’ on my list of books to read.

    Since our tastes often run in the same direction, I want to tell you about the magazine that currently has me hooked. Of course it has been around forever, the TLS (Times Literary Supplement), but I just recently got an on-line subscription that didn’t cost much Not only is the current issue always fascinating, their backlog of articles from way back is superb.

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    1. Hi Tony! Thanks for the tip about the TLS. I’m sort of aware of its existence but I haven’t checked it out. I’ll be sure to do so and suspect I’ll be following you as an online subscriber (love reading literary criticism).
      I hope you like Snow. It’s not for everyone and it wouldn’t have been for me even a few years ago. As I’ve said, probably far too often, I’m (very) gradually moving away from more realistic fiction (19th and early 20th century) to more experimental work. I’ve become quite fond of atmospheric, ambiguous stories such as Au’s Snow. Finding New Direction Press has had a lot to do with this (I think we read different editions of Solstad; at least the covers were different; mine was a recentt reprint by ND).

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  9. I think it’s the type of fiction that you’d enjoy. Au has a spare and elegant style; there’s not much to the plot but an air of mystery/ambiguity hooks you in (at least it did me) & keeps you reading. The sense of atmosphere & subtlety very much reminded me of A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray, although the two are not similar in other respects.
    As an added bonus, Au is wonderful at conveying the art, food and country that the two women are experiencing.
    And, yes, since the pandemic I have very much come to appreciate the novella form!

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  10. I’ve been curious about this since I saw it won the Novel Prize (and I’ve had this open in a tab for a week or more… 😉 ). Nice review & it does sound pretty fascinating. Though I admit to being a little suspicious of unnamed characters. I get why an author might want to do it, but it just so often seems giving away more than it gets back. Anyway, very nice! And I’m going to have to figure how to get hold of a copy.

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  11. Hi Reese! Glad you enjoyed the review, which I really had no intention of writing (Nightingale Wood, alas, still awaits my attention. What can I say? Life has intervened). I forgot — you live in Canada, don’t you? I know Au’s novella is available as a kindle on that platform we all hate (but which I suspect we all use). My print copy was part of my New Directions New Classic book club dealy. I know many bloggers don’t like to accumulate books and head for the library, which I totally understand, so a kindle download wouldn’t of course help if you’re of that mind (I’m the opposite. Once I was able to buy books, I never stopped. I need to. Badly.)
    I know what you mean about unnamed characters. It didn’t bother me here, I have to admit, because in some ways the whole “theme” of the book is ambiguity; the impossibility of ever really knowing another. At least, that’s how I saw it. Giving the narrator a name would have been pinning things down a bit too much. On a more mundane level, picking the name would have been difficult — imagine a Mary, a Sue, a Nancy, a whatever. All that delicate subtlety torn to shreds!
    Anyway, if you do read Cold Enough, I’d love to know what you think of it.

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    1. I never entirely know which books I’m likely to review either–and lately it hasn’t been very many of them!

      If I’m buying a book, I like to get a paper copy, and I haven’t been in a new book store in a while actually. There’s lots of used bookstores nearby and a remaindered bookstore, too, but no bookstore for new books all that close. And I should stay out of them anyway! (Though I don’t.) I’m on my library’s hold list for the book, but I haven’t gotten it yet, and if I saw it I might think about buying it. A couple of years ago I switched from Kindle to Kobo when the battery on my Kindle started giving out–my library system supports Kobo. But Kobo doesn’t have as many books. As for physical books, I don’t have many compunctions–not as many as I should have at this point–about acquiring more…

      Pretty recently I read Jenny Erpenbeck’s End of Days which also has a nameless protagonist. I quite liked the novel, and didn’t entirely mind the character’s namelessness–she was supposed to be representative of the life an East European woman in the 20th Century, I guess, but it did lead to some awkward moments in the prose.

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      1. Hi Reese — totally hear you about the reviewing (a shame in your case, as I always enjoy your reviews so much). My own last year was so poor that I actually tried to analyze the factors that were doing me in — aside from sheer sloth, that is. One big one was waiting too long after I finished a book before I started my review (I always just want to read another book). I began the year with one of those famous resolutions but — we ALL know what happens to them, don’t we???? At least I made it to early Feb this year, which is a kind of record for me.
        I love, love, love the book as object, usually a nice, new paperback. Sometimes, however, a hardback copy is absolutely de rigueur if it’s something I particularly love, such as a Henry James novel or Scott’s Raj Quartet (I also love books that come in sets). That being said, I frequently read on a kindle, because it makes huge numbers of books portable and I can read in the dark or low light conditions, such as in my favorite breakfast dive (don’t look too closely at the biscuits!). At this point, I have totally surrendered to my mania for acquiring books; I do hope to stop, however, before all my new shelves are filled (I’m getting close).
        It’s nice to learn that you liked Erpenbeck’s End of Days, as I just happen to have an unread copy sitting in the “E” section of my new shelves. I discovered Erpenbeck last year, when I read Go, Went, Gone. I never managed to review it, of course, but it was a wonderful novel on a number of different levels. The protagonist, I might add, was a retired Classics professor; the novel portrays his growing knowledge, sympathy & involvement with the plight of refugees attempting to survive and make new lives for themselves in the west. I couldn’t help but think his profession was symbolic, i.e., the best of the western tradition, confronted with a crisis of humanity.
        I’m afraid I’ve now reverted to my fantasy/sci-fi past for a couple of comfort reads. Right now it’s K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City; totally addictive if you’ve a bent to fantasy and are doing some airport time!

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  12. Just finished Miss Iceland. Oh, I loved it. Even more than Childhood, Youth, Dependency. And now I yearn to go to Iceland. Have ordered Hotel Silence.
    You have become an infallible judge and recommender of books now to me. Thank you, thank you. I also ordered Jessica Au’s Cold Enough for Snow. Meanwhile Ulysses awaits…

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    1. Hi Michelle — so glad you enjoyed Miss Iceland, as I thought it was great. I’m partial to coming of age stories, especially when they involve artists, but even so I though the writer did an exceptional job. I’ve always felt a little guilty that I didn’t review it! Ólafsdóttir is definitely on my list of writers to explore (fortunately she’s written lots of novels); so if you read anything else by her please share your views.
      Like you, I am awaiting Ulysses . . . maybe . . . . next year?

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  13. This sounds another little gem, and the fact that much of it is left to the reader to interpret I think makes for a much more engaged and richer reading experience. I hadn’t come across this before but suspect that had I done so, I’d have picked it up simply because it involved a journey through Japan. Thanks for highlighting this. Wonder how I missed it when you originally posted.

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  14. Mallikabooks — there are so many interesting things on the book blogs, not to mention twitter & facebook, that it becomes so, so easy to miss things. I frequently come across essays and posts that interest me, months after they’re written and I’m sure I’m missing many other things I’d enjoy just as much!
    Aside from its many other great qualities (I agree that the novel is a gem), the “journey through Japan” aspect is wonderful. Without being banal the novel gives you a marvellous sense of being there, of the weather (that lovely, misty, poetic autumn rain), the architecture & culture, the food and, oh yes, the art. There are wonderful descriptions of the art that the daughter sees, or plans to see. In addition to this, the wonderful writing and the subtlety of the story puts Au on my list of writers to keep an eye on.

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  15. Hi Janakay,
    I will read this book. It’s sounding like Ishiguro to me. It’s my type of book.
    I am getting ready to be back at blogging. I miss it and I need to read again.

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  16. Hola Silvia! So nice you’ve popped in! This one might definitely be for you. As you so perceptively note, it’s reminiscent of Ishiguro in its subtlety and elegance, as well as the fact that it doesn’t spell everything out for the reader. If you do get to it, I’d love to hear your reaction.
    I eagerly await your resumption of blogging — I’ve missed your posts

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