Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Seven coming-of-age novels from around the world

Aube Rey Lescure is a French-Chinese-American writer. She grew up between Provence, northern China, and Shanghai, and graduated from Yale University in 2015. She worked in foreign policy before becoming an itinerant writer.

Her debut novel is River East, River West.

At Electric Lit the author tagged seven books from around the globe "about young people growing up too fast, too hard, too weird, too tenderly because they live in places where the setting is a driving force for complicated youths." One title on the list:
Spain: Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu, translated from the Spanish by Julia Sanches

This novel’s original Spanish title is Panza de Burro, or “donkey’s belly,” a Canarian description of the low-lying cloud cover clinging to the volcanic landscape of northern Tenerife. The ten-year-old narrator and her best friend Idora live in a working class town where many of the adults’ livelihoods are tied to the resort economy of the island’s south. For the girls, the sea is a three hour walk away. They spend much of their languid, suffocating summer failing to get to it, settling instead for a made-believe “canal beach” with concrete slabs and a trickle of water littered with ubiquitous pine needles.

The town’s roads are steep (“a vertical neighborhood on a vertical mountain”), the houses multicolored and half finished, the minimarket a distributor of junk food and mean gossip. The narrator resents the holiday residences her mother needs to clean, from which she feels separated by “a barrier of clear clingfilm.” The girls eat and purge and gorge on berries and pears that make them shit endlessly, they grind their bodies on everything, including each other, they roam in the heat and volcanic haze. The clouds are always low, hovering right above their heads, their oppression a pressure cooker, presaging the boiling point towards which the novel is gathering force.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue