One of the joys of a blog like this one is the opportunity to draw attention to titles that might be overlooked in the crowd of books published every year.
Today’s review of Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky highlights a first novel offered in translation from the German, published by Europa Editions. This coming-of-age immigration story could not be more different than the last example reviewed here, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. While both deal with survival, Broken Glass Park is much more raw; it is about revenge.
The setting, the voice of the teen narrator, and the excellence of the translation that allows that voice to shine through as intended all warrant special attention. Bronsky knows of what she writes — she moved from Russia to Germany as a young teen herself. Just last week, she discussed her novel at the Goethe Institut in Washington, DC, recorded by NPR. Or take a look at this interview on the Words with Borders site about her creative process and background.
Adult/High School–Sascha, 17, begins telling the story of her life by sharing her two goals: she wants to kill Vadim and she wants to write a book about her deceased mother. Just as readers wonder who Vadim might be, she charges forward with more tantalizing information about her life: the dangerous housing complex she lives in, home for many Russian émigrés to Germany; her two half-siblings; and the exploits of her beautiful but naïve mother. This, at last, brings us back to Vadim. The book moves without breaking for chapters, swirling around past and present incidents as Sascha passionately searches for a way to assuage the grief of losing her mother, who was murdered by Vadim. Bronsky lets the story out in a great rush that envelopes many characters and situations, but is satisfyingly full and complete in the end. The novel is translated into an American English that will feel familiar, even if the experiences of a Russian girl in Germany are delightfully exotic. Teens who are drawn to books with a strong, offbeat narrative voice (think Rachel Cohn) will enjoy the literary ride. Also, fans of suspense novels will enjoy the many subplots in Sascha’s life that are charged with mystery and danger. For many teens, this may be a first introduction to a contemporary European voice.–Diane Colson, New Port Richey Library, FL