Not To Be Overlooked
By Natalia Alvarez and Emily Simms
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of the novel, A Perfect Cemetery by Federico Falco, translated by Jennifer Croft and the poetry collection, Alexa, What Is There To Know About Love by Brian Bilston.
A Perfect Cemetery By Federico Falco, Translated by Jennifer Croft
Review by Natalia Alvarez
In this hauntingly imaginative collection, readers are introduced to five separate short stories held together solely by their location – the Córdoba Mountains. This backdrop is especially significant to Argentinian author Federico Falco who uses the beauty of his native land to build the world in which each of A Perfect Cemetery‘s stories take place. Originally published in 2016, A Perfect Cemetery has now found a home at Charco Press where it has been translated into English by Jennifer Croft and published in April 2021. This is Falco's first novel to be translated into English.
The novel opens with a story titled ‘The Hares’ which follows a man named Oscar who has left society for unknown reasons and is now living with the hares as their king. We see how he has embraced his animalistic side as well as the inner turmoil he feels for his decisions. By the end, readers are left to make their own assumptions about what will happen to Oscar. The second story, ‘Silvi and Her Dark Knight’ introduces Silvi who has lost her faith after witnessing the death of a young boy. Upon meeting and falling for a different boy she notes their strikingly similar eyes. Silvi must come to terms with her feelings about this new boy as well as her stance on religion. Next is the story ‘A Perfect Cemetery’ where this novel gets its name. Here we see a man attempting to create the most beautiful and perfect resting place for the citizens of his town even though this is something they are adamantly against. In ‘Woodland Life’ an elderly man whose home in the woods has been taken away because of construction. To find a new home, he attempts to marry off his daughter so long as the man will house them both. The final story titled ‘The River’ follows a recently widowed woman who tends to her late husband’s garden yet is helpless when winter brings snow, inevitably burying the garden and leaving her lonelier than ever.
Falco places his fictional characters into a world where we as readers are made to contemplate how much we are owed by nature and the repercussions when we do not appreciate our environment. I would recommend this collection because it introduces unique concepts and has been translated in a way that captivates the audience from the very first page. I hope we see more translations of Falco’s work in the future.
Alexa, What Is There To Know About Love? by Brian Bilston
Review by Emily Simms
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic or the beginning of the gradual reopening of society, Brian Bilston’s latest collection of poems was published. Concentration levels were limited to a thirty second TikTok and consequently this year's Goodreads challenge is still taking a hit from my inability to read as much as I would have liked to. Arguably, the best cure for a book lover who finds themselves in a reading slump is to delve into some poetry, and Bilston was the poet of choice.
As a first time reader of Bilston’s work I wasn’t sure what to expect but was familiar with him through seeing him pop up on my Twitter feed, as the platform’s "unofficial Poet Laureate." Sometimes writers successful on social media can find themselves snubbed by the ominous literary elite, but Bilston seems to have captured the affection of book lovers and booksellers alike. Although his "real identity" is no longer a mystery, his work remains at the forefront of his image rather than the man behind the keyboard.
The opening poem, ‘The Caveman’s Lament’, is a sweet start to the collection, highlighting that no matter the age you live in, unrequited love is timeless. The combination of sincere and comedic runs all the way through the collection, reflecting the essence of modern or just simply British romance. A lot of the pieces like ‘Love in the Age of Google’ and the titular poem, ‘Alexa, What is There to Know about Love?’ are very much of our time, and reflect just how ridiculous it is that we search for answers to such profound questions through a search engine. However, towards the latter end of the collection, ‘She’d Dance’ and ‘Gun Fight in the Last Chance Saloon’ reflect the sadness and joy of having had a life shared with that one person. With over fifty poems in the collection, Bilston is able to pack a wide variety of themes and ideas in, from his love of literature in ‘Tsundoku’ to politics and the art of language, and the overarching sentiment of love. It is the ideal collection if you want to fit in a poem before bed, or need a little pick me up, or know someone who needs a little bit of laugh in this hectic period of all our lives.