Wild Swims by Dorthe Nors, translated by Misha Hoekstra

I’ve really enjoyed reading Dorthe Nors other works and was excited to read this collection. Wild Swims is such a beautiful title too and from the moment you dip your toe in, you are immersed in different lives all told at those moments of heightened awareness. Either a narrator is stuck up a deer stand with a damaged ankle and no phone (‘In a Deer Stand’) or they’re preparing to head out into the wilderness (‘Manitoba’) or they’re standing with a gas can staring out over a fairground contemplating what it means to be in love (‘The Fairground’ – where it isn’t the joyful flowers and rainbows you imagine as a child). 

Most of the stories feel like a brief immersion into one mind whose sense of present comprehension often involves a significant memory that somehow ties into that moment, that solidifies their sense of self-consciousness, their understanding of the world and themselves. These feel like stories in the classic Carver sense, tips of the ice-berg, Pritchard’s glimpses from the corners of eyes. 

Her use of imagery coheres with this too. A small thing seems to stand for how a character feels during a certain experience. The reflected sun spots on the ice of the Arctic tundra – the sun dogs as they are called in the language of the tundra – are the visible intangible rivals to the narrator’s ex, seen through the body of his mother whom she befriends on a writing retreat and who is so afraid of having her stories, her self written about (‘Sun Dogs’). The description of the image allows it to speak in ways the words can’t do alone. 

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The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I wanted to read this book after listening to The Literary Friction Podcast on intimacy (their first one). If you haven’t listened to them, I thoroughly recommend it! This is one of the books that they mention and recommend often.

I must say that I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it wasn’t perhaps what I started reading. Here was another non-fiction book dealing with gender, motherhood, how to place oneself in the world, but in this book there is a sense of being as an endless becoming. 

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The Sound Mirror by Heidi James

Tamara is on the way to kill her mother. This is how the novel opens, with the threat of murder. Of course, it isn’t quite that. Tamara’s estranged mother is on life support and has, surprisingly, asked for Tamara to be there, to be the one that oversees the machines being switched off. 

Inside Tamara’s DNA lurk the voices of the women who have gone before and seeping out of this jumble of experience come the other narratives. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling too much to say that these voices are Tamara’s past, her grandmothers Ada and Claire, who tell us their own journeys as they reflect and refract back onto the molecular canvases of their mothers’ faces. A seemingly endless sound mirror that Tamara has decided to end through sterilization. There will be no more women to continue this line.

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Against The Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa

A story of Palestinian resistance, AgainstThe Loveless World is told by Nahr from an Israeli prison called The Cube. 

Always watched, cut off from the rhythms of the natural world, her solitude as a political prisoner is harsh in the extreme. The toilet flushes at random; the shower – that she names and thinks of as a lover, it being the only thing to caress her skin – comes on as and when her guards decide. She has no control over her surroundings inside that small box room of plastic to which she must shackle herself before anyone enters.

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