Category Archives: Gelesen


A book that kept me awake at night…

… was Paul Lynch’s Prophet Song. I felt Eilish’s sorrow, how she made decisions and got it wrong, but any other decision could have been as wrong as the one she made. The plot draws the reader into a maze of totalitarianism in Ireland of all places, first showing its ugly face here and there, than everywhere. Family is at the core of the story, and this strong unit is slowly falling apart. What was once normal everyday happiness is no longer there, and its absence is increasingly felt by Eilish and her children. Her father is slowly sliding into dementia, but in his lucid moments sees the threats that come from the state and warns his daughter to get out – yet she can’t, doesn’t want to, wants to hold on to hope until there is no hope to hold on to. Because of the times we live in the book has a particularly urgent power, it is incredibly well written and incredibly sad. A must-read!

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War photography …

is not glamourous, often dangerous and in the case of Maali Almeida – deadly. Shahan Karunatilaka’s book is brutally honest and tender. Honest? Hang on a minute – it talks about ghosts and ghouls, charms and (black) magic. And about a dead photographer whose ghost is roaming the streets of Colombo and beyond. It is honest because Maali Almeida’s inner world is portrayed in all its complexity and the reader gets an insight into the troubled past and present of Sri Lanka – and with it of the wider world in all its beauty and brutality. I have a soft spot for a mysterious story with lots of twists and turns, and this book hits all the right buttons. It also won the Booker Prize in 2022. Good choice!

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The photo book Companions by Yana Wernicke and the graphic novel Chernobyl’s Dogs by Johanna Aulén were two birthday presents that I really treasure. They tell their stories with a loving appreciation of animals that I share.

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Companion piece

That’s the title of the book I just finished reading. It’s a companion piece to Ali Smith’s season series, and it has been my companion for a while, particularly its final part telling the story of the girl and the curlew, their unlikely companionship and her struggle to find her place in a hostile world. It resonated with me, and if I quote from it, you may want to read it too:

„But the world with people in it is a kind of filth compared to this afterlife she actually did not need to die to find.“


„Take care what you make. Beauty can anger as well as please.“

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An audio book in print

Reading Michelle Gallen’s Big Girl, Small Town, her words came to life. Another mother with a serious alcohol problem, this time with a daughter. Set in Northern Ireland, hinting at problems past and present through the eyes of Majella, the daughter who works in a chipper. Her graphic descriptions of her customers made me laugh out loud and I really tuned into her voice. The book is full of dark humour, Majella’s life without her dad – missing but never officially proclaimed dead – is far from easy, but I somehow felt that she would be ok. So I recommend that you read until the end of this rather unusual book to see whether I was right.

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Ein Buch, das Mut macht

UNBEDINGTE LESEEMPFEHLUNG für die Ostertage und darüber hinaus ist Annette, ein Heldinnenepos von Anne Weber. Da sind Sätze drin, die mich jetzt immer begleiten werden. Macht euch auf die Suche nach diesen Sätzen für euch, liebe Mitleser*innen. Ein Sprachkunstwerk, das Geschichte erzählt. Ganz nebenbei. Und ein sanftes Licht auf eine ganz besondere Frau wirft, die sehr viel Leben gewagt hat.

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Reading in the times of the corona virus ….

… hasn’t been as easy or straightforward as one might think. More time? Maybe. But also change to get used to, new ways of being with each other to adapt to, and queues at my favourite stalls at the local markets. And the insecurity about a deadly virus that has taken so many lives, yet remains intangible (as viruses tend to be). So it took me a while to pick up a book and read it from beginning to end. A book about two very ambivalent people marked by life struck me as a good choice. Plus it was set in London, the city I miss and think about with a mix of yearning and anguish right now. The two main protagonists are Meg and Jon, and they write to each other. A very old-fashioned concept. And a way of getting close without getting too close. Or very close indeed. So the perfect novel for our times, really. A. L. Kennedy’s Serious Sweet is a masterpiece of internal monologues. And a love letter to London.

Part 2

Yes, I continue to read, and after I’d finished the mesmerising and quite disturbing ‚The Long Take‘ by Robin Robertson, I was longing for a novel, a story to draw me in. Along came ‚The Friend‘ by Sigrid Nunez. Quite clearly a book about a dog, with an imposing Great Dane on the cover. So I expected to read about this far too big animal’s antics while living in a New York appartement. But Apollo’s role is not to amuse, his is to provide insights through his story. Insights into his previous owner’s suicide and his relationships, his new owner’s fears and her need for closeness – and literature. Rainer-Maria Rilke, Heinrich Heine, T. S. Eliot and others weave through this book with their stories about the dogs in their lives, but also about their loves and losses. Hector, the caretaker of the house, seems to represent the changes that can take place when something really unexpected happens. Changes that defy rules. The book’s end is one of the most beautiful endings I’ve ever read. And as was to be expected, it is not entirely cheerful.

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Spring ….

is not here in January in Berlin. But I’m reading Ali Smith’s book with that title. Everybody needs a Florence Smith in their life. You don’t think so? Well, you haven’t read the book yet ….. It belongs to the seasonal quartet, and it is out there to shake up the reader with changes of register and perspective. Masterfully done and with great empathy for those who suffer – the people who are locked away at the immigration removal centre and the bereaved film director. Also for Brit, who works at the refugee centre, whose suffering is of a different kind, and who makes others suffer. Maybe to numb her own pain.
I hope to catch the scent of spring when January is over …..

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A Little Life

A friend gave me this book by Hanya Yanagihara, and if a friend gives me a book, I try to stick with it and read it to the end. I must admit that I struggled for the first 150 pages or so. And there were a total of 816 pages to get through … Why did I struggle? I didn’t really feel that I got to know the main protagonist, Jude, and that all the stories around him were meant to distract the reader away from him. Which is true, in a sense. I just had to stop being irritated by the distractions, enjoy the descriptions of New York, the people and their art, be it a painter’s or a lawyer’s artwork. Abuse is not an easy topic to tackle. And Jude’s story is full of it. Relentless, violent abuse. He survives, he is loved, but right until the end, to the very last of the 816 pages, the feeling didn’t leave me that he was hiding. But I’m glad I looked at the kaleidoscope that was his fictional life. If only to have met Willem.

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Different things to different people

Milkman by Anna Burns is a masterpiece. It doesn’t give answers. It doesn’t name. It leaves many blank spaces for the reader to fill in. Yes, it talks about a specific part of the world, but it never mentions where it is. Yes, it describes a specific political situation, but it doesn’t take sides. Yes, it uncovers many layers of issues in an unjust society, but it’s fiction, isn’t it? So we can just “watch”, or we can take in what the problems are and think about the balance of power in this fictitious, yet not so fictitious society – and in our own. There is one scene in Milkman that feels like a nightmare come true. It is now engraved in my memory. It comes with a glimmer of hope. And that sums up the entire book for me. But it won’t for other readers. Who will find a place they know or a family they’ve met or that is their own. Or a relationship they would rather not have been in. Or none of that.

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