Sample Saturday – three swimming stories

Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.

This week, I discovered two titles after reading this article about cold water swimming and depression, and the book by Lee was chosen because I’ve followed her on Twitter for years. Continue reading


First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday – Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes


It’s been far too long since I participated in Bibliophile by the Sea’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday- that will change now that exams and study are over for six weeks and I have a huge, tempting reading stack.

In that stack is Timur Vermes’s political satire, Look Who’s Back. I think you can guess who it’s about from the cover. The question is, are we ready to laugh at him?

It begins – Continue reading

Back to Back by Julia Franck

I was grossly under-prepared for the intensity of Julia Franck’s Back to Back. Which is probably why I found it so disturbing.

The story begins in 1954, and centers around a single family living in Berlin in the socialist East. The mother, Käthe, is a sculptor, who has been leveraging her party connections in order to get more significant commissions. Devoted entirely to becoming a success, she is a cruel and completely unaffectionate mother, putting the socialist party above her children – Thomas, Ella and (unnamed and mostly absent) twin girls.  She treats her children as if they were adults – there is no bourgeois mollycoddling in her household.

“Käthe was hardly ever happy, but she was proud.” Continue reading

‘The Post Office Girl’ by Stefan Zweig

This is less of a review and more of a bossy list.

In regards to The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig –

DON’T read the jacket blurb (it gives too much away). Instead, all you need to know is this: The story is set in provincial Austria just after the World War I and is about a post-office worker, Christine. She looks after her ailing mother and leads a grim, poor life. Then comes an unexpected invitation – her rich aunt, who lives in America, writes requesting that Christine holiday with her and her husband at a Swiss Alpine resort. At the resort, Christine glimpses a life of luxury and privilege that astounds her. But Christine’s aunt drops her as abruptly as she picked her up, and soon the young woman is back at the post office, consumed with disappointment and bitterness.

DO read it, particularly if you’re taking part in a translation reading challenge or one that involves books set in different countries (it ticks the box for Switzerland and Austria). Continue reading

‘The Mussel Feast’ by Birgit Vanderbeke

I’m fairly sure I haven’t read a novel that is, in its entirety, a monologue. For that reason alone, The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke and translated from German by Jamie Bulloch was an interesting reading experience.

It’s billed as the “…German book that has shaped an entire generation” – I guess if you’re going to make a statement, make it a big one.

The Mussel Feast is the story of a mother and her two teenage children, who are sitting at the kitchen table waiting for their father to return from work. They have prepared a large pot of mussels for dinner – the mussels are a ‘special occasion’ dish for the family and they’re anticipating news of the father’s promotion. But at the usual hour, their father has not returned home and the mussels go cold.  What has happened to him? Continue reading