This is the story so far in my August sojourn among older women in fiction around the world. We are well into the month and just starting week three.
In the first two weeks I have selected some fiction from North America and was gratified by the readership and comments on the posts. I moved on to Europe, the source of most of the translated books in this series. We are just about to start the week focusing on African and Middle Eastern writers. I’ll finish with a week of fiction from the UK.
Continent of North America (week 1)
My use of that term ‘North America’ was a little problematic. I was referring to a continent. The problem arose when discussing Two Old Women. The story is set before Europeans set foot in the New World and centres on the Yukon River. The Yukon refers to both an area and a river and can be found today in both the USA and Canada. It’s a novel adapted from a tribal legend, and has the deepest roots of all the stories featured this month.
Most readers I talk to love the work of Kent Haruf, and will recognise the observation made as a reader recommended his work: you know these people. And my first guest chose to introduce a book I have not previously encountered, which sounds charming and somewhat escapist: Eleanor and Abel by Annette Sanford.
Europe (week 2)
I enjoy the books featured in the European section. These European old ladies seem to have a great deal to offer in attitude and models of how to live, or not to live, in old age. I have not yet read my guest’s choice, The Little Old Lady who Broke all the Rules, but I will get to it soon as it sounds so lively and transgressive. The theme of rebellion in a care home reminds me of an recent English novel: Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon (2018).
African and Middle Eastern writers (next week)
The illustration above comes from the website of the charity Book Aid International that supports sending books where they are needed. This picture illustrates a story from North Kenya called Beating the odds in Kakuma Refugee Camp: Yvonne’s story. The charity has the strap line: BOOKS CHANGE LIVES. One way to change lives is to introduce ideas through books that challenge stereotypes and give a voice those who have been silenced.
In week 3 you will find these books:
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, from South Africa.
Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika. Set in San Francisco, USA, the writer is of Nigerian origin.
The Woman from Tantoura by Radwa Ashour, translated by Kay Heikkinen. The story reveals the realities of the Palestinian diaspora.
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine, by a Amerian-Lebanese writer, and set in Beirut.
There must be more older women to read about in the fertile literature of this vast area. Please let me know what I have missed.
I have been especially pleased to pick up several recommendations from readers and tweeters relating to this series, although none are from Africa or the Middle East. Please add more if they occur to you. I will report on these at the end of the month. Meanwhile enjoy more choices of older women in fiction around the world.
Written and posted by Caroline Lodge of Bookword