Speed Reading - female perspectives in international fiction

Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt (Picador) explores migration and follows five generations of Latina women. Outside a nineteenth- century Cuban cigar factory, Maria Isabel watches helplessly as her husband is murdered for educating the workers. Decades later, her descendant Jeanette struggles to survive in present-day Miami. Jeanette’s neighbour, Gloria, an illegal migrant from El Salvador, fears for her life should she be returned. In what is clearly a critique of US policy, Gloria and her young daughter Ana are separated, detained and dumped in Mexico.


In Annie Ernaux’s Simple Passion, translated by Tanya Leslie (Fitzcarraldo Editions), the French narrator recalls the all- consuming love affair she had with a married man. In 40 pages, Ernaux offers a detailed examination of obsession, conveying a woman paralysed by indecision as she waits for her lover’s next visit: “I had no future other than the telephone call fixing our next appointment.” The woman’s intense journey concludes with the comforting realisation that the only trace of her passion is the book in our hands. To be devoured in one sitting.

Kjersti A. Skomsvold blurs fact and fiction in The Child, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken (Granta), a bittersweet meditation on motherhood and writing. As the female narrator wanders through Oslo, she talks to her second-born child: creating stories, relating fragments from her past, how she got together with her partner, and the lover she lost. In simple, spare prose, she explores her transition from unease to acceptance, from loneliness to finding peace with her family.

Originally published in The Tablet