Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
A case of too much hype, and the result was a book that didn’t deliver what I anticipated. Ford’s father was jailed when she was very young, and therefore she grew up not knowing him. I expected the story to focus on this hole in her life, and the impact of their eventual reunion, but instead it centres around her other significant relationships. Perhaps it was just me, but the joining-of-the-dots in relation to her traumas seemed unnecessary – she didn’t need to explain why she felt certain ways, her circumstances did the talking.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
A bunch of reading friends pressed this one on me, all claiming it was a page-turner. And yes, it is. There is nothing particularly new or surprising in terms of plot, but the novel is well structured using dual timelines (one arc focuses on a 24-hour period in the present, while the other arc rewinds to the childhood of the main character, Elle).
I very much enjoyed the Cape Cod lake-side summer cabin setting (I’m a sucker for the TV show Maine Cabin Masters) but did find the prose a little overblown. That said, there was a lack of emotional detail around some key plot points and ultimately, it would have been stronger with less about the ponds and barbecues, and more about what was happening in Elle’s head.
This book comes with content warning (child sexual abuse).
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
Hard to know how to classify this book – there’s a slow-burn suspense element but it won’t be enough to satisfy suspense fans. Perhaps it’s better described as ‘intellectual suspense’ because it focuses on the particular ethical, emotional and technical challenges faced by people who work as translators. In this case, the main character was employed by The Hague International Court and therefore was responsible for translating evidence and court proceedings for the most horrific of human crimes. It throws into sharp focus the weight we give to voice inflections and the facial expressions that go with what we say.
I really enjoyed Kitamura’s plain, staccato sentences – a perfect compliment to the challenges faced by the translators, as they searched for and avoided ambiguity and nuance.