Celebrating Eurovision: A Tour Around Europe
By Amy Wright, Lauren Jones and Zoe Doyle
This issue we are heading to explore the diverse and colourful Europe as we gear up for Eurovision. Eurovision is the longest-running annual international televised music competition that leans into a kitschy style and celebration of culture and tradition across Europe. Each year, the performances are bigger, bolder and wilder than the last, with each act bringing something special to the stage. This year promises to follow suit with some great music, costumes and performances. To celebrate, we are sharing some book recommendations set in Europe or written by European authors.
Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou
Greek mythology retellings have been extremely popular in publishing, with bestsellers such as The Song of Achilles and Ariadne exploring the stories of various heroes and heroines from Ancient Greek mythology. However, very few of these books have been written by Greek authors. Threads That Bind, however, is the YA debut novel by Greek writer Kika Hatzopoulou which is inspired by the Fates, the weaving goddesses of destiny. A descendant of the Fates, Io can see people’s fate threads and can cut them, severing their ties to things they love and even their life. She uses her abilities as a private investigator in the half-sunken city of Alante where she discovers a sinister mystery – someone is abducting women, maiming their life-threads and unleashing wraiths upon the city. She sets out to find the culprit, teaming up with Edei, a boy with whom she shares a strong fated connection. As she uncovers secrets buried deep in the underbelly of the city and picks the mystery apart, it becomes clear that there is a conspiracy involving some of the most powerful people in the city – including her estranged older sister who seems to be entangled with Io’s main suspect. The novel will be released on the 30 May 2023 and promises to be a refreshing blend of Greek mythology mixed with romance, gritty noir and an intriguing mystery.
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante. Translated by Ann Goldstein
Elena Ferrante is an Italian novelist and The Lying Life of Adults, along with some of Ferrante’s other works, is set in Naples. In this coming-of-age novel, the protagonist, Giovanna, overhears her father expressing concern that Giovanna is beginning to look more and more like his estranged sister Vittoria. Giovanna is confused as to why her family despises her Aunt Vittoria and wants to uncover the truth behind this mysterious hatred that she has little understanding of. She therefore decides to search for her estranged aunt on the other side of the city. We follow Giovanna as she navigates life in the city as a young adult, whilst also uncovering family secrets, gaining new experiences and coming to the realisation that adults, including parents, aren’t as perfect as we may believe they are as a child. Set in the early 1990s, this is a story about growing up and the journey into adulthood from the perspective of a teenager, exploring themes of identity, class and the complexities of family relationships. Ferrante’s descriptions of the two sides of the city give an insight into the political, cultural and economic differences found in Naples. Now with an adaptation on Netflix, this Neapolitan tale is certainly a unique story that will keep you engaged and make you think.
Daughters by Lucy Fricke, translated by Sinéad Crowe
Lucy Fricke’s story Daughters follows best friends Betty and Martha as they roadtrip through Europe, trying to make sense of where their lives have taken them. As they reflect on their fractured and complicated relationships with their fathers and how this has shaped them, it is their friendship that holds them together. Fricke writes this friendship beautifully – it’s the kind of friendship that lasts a lifetime, where you just 'click' and know that you’d do crazy things for each other.
Fricke also deftly tackles heavy universal themes such as bereavement, complex relationships and trauma, but delicately and carefully weaves these themes into the narrative. The result is two fragile and very human heroines, who are perfect protagonists for this unexpected adventure.
The insight in to everyday Europe is a true highlight of this novel. Sinéad Crowe has done a masterful job of translating all kinds of cultural references, imagery and humour that contribute to the richness of the narrative. Although this novel engages with some heavy topics, it is also witty and side-splittingly hilarious at times, which makes for an enjoyable and meaningful read – definitely an excellent example of why you should give translated fiction a chance!