Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

I’ve been reading a book a day this week to chip away at my queue. Emma Donoghue’s Room was next, and there are two things you should know before reading: 1) It’s written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy; 2) The woman (Ma) is being held in the room as a sexual prisoner. I mention the first caveat because the incessant voice of a five-year-old child can become tiresome long before the 321st page; the second, because it’s a disturbing element and something you should know going in. read more

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Being a translator isn’t easy—the writer is credited with the good stuff while flaws are blamed on the translator. Many reviews say The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is poorly written or poorly translated. It’s hard to tell which, and I’m going to set aside this question since I can’t read Swedish. The plot is solidly constructed and paced, but suffers when severed from its original setting, culture, and language as the translator makes no effort to bridge the gap for a foreign audience. Example: “Norsjö was a small town with one main street, appropriately enough called Storgatan, that ran through the whole community.” (282) Why is this an appropriate name? I assumed (correctly) that Storgatan meant “Main,” but I’d been hoping for a pun and looked it up just in case. The translation runs unevenly; it uses plain, simple language with frequent cliches, before tossing in an oddball word that no native speaker would include: “Every family had a few skeletons in their cupboards, but the Vanger family had an entire gallimaufry of them.” (134) Context gives this away, but it reads unnaturally in context. read more