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review 2019-10-17 19:37
"The Awkard Squad" by Sophie Hénaff
The Awkward Squad - Sophie Hénaff,Sam Gordon

 

 

 

An entertaining, original, humorous, well-plotted story of a new squad of outcasts in the Paris Police coming together to solve two murders.

 

"The Awkward Squad" is the English translation of "Poulet Grillés", (literally 'grilled chickens' - although poulet is also used a term for prostitutes) which has a slightly more pejorative feel to it than the English title suggests. The Awkward Squad sounds defiant in a bloody-minded other-ranks-insolence kind of way whereas Poultries Grille suggests people who have burned their careers.

 

The book has a premise that I think is a peculiarly French mix of the logical, the absurd and unacknowledgeable but well-understood reality. The Paris police have set up a new Squad, led by a previously promising but now disgraced Commisar, into which they've dumped forty or so failed but unsackable police officers and a collection of unsolved cases. There's no expectation that the squad members will turn up never mind solve a case. The declared purpose of the Squad is to make the stats of the other Squads better by concentrating all the failure in one place.

 

This is a great set up or dry humour, eccentric characters and a bit of suspense. To my surprise, it also turned out to include complex investigations into a couple of murders.

What makes "The Awkward Squad" different from Anglo versions of the same kind of story of outcasts working cold cases is the stoicism of the officers who have been branded as not wanted. They don't throw angry tantrums. They accept where they are and hope that things might get better. They discover that by learning to trust and support each other, they can win back their self-respect.

 

Their leader, Comisionaire Anne Capestan, a woman whose anger and loss of control has cost her her marriage and her career, declines despair, opting instead for cautious optimism and patience. She doesn't use her authority in traditional ways, nor does she allow her boundaries to be set by her bosses. Instead, she prods and encourages and cajoles the misfits into taking on challenging cases, even though they have no resources and almost no authority.

 

The members of the Squad are well-drawn individuals rather than stereotypes. They each have problems but they also have something to offer. The English phrase for them is probably a motley crew

 

I'd expected the investigations to be little more than a vehicle for humour and character development but Sophie Hénaff delivers a well-paced, complex investigation that goes to some unexpected places and changes the overall perception of what the Squad is for.

 

"The Awkward Squad" was a book that I read with a smile on my face, not so much because it was funny, although it often was, but because this book manages to be hopeful without getting mushy or sentimental. It was a book I enjoyed reading and looked forward to getting back to. For me, that's quite rare.

 

Sophie Hénaff is a French journalist who writes humorous columns Cosmopolitan. "The Awkward Squad" was her first novel. It won the 2015 Polar Series Prize, the Arsène-Lupin Prize and the 2016 prix des Lecteurs du Livre de poche (Paperback Readers Award). The series currently stands at three books, the first two of which have been translated into English. I already have the next one, "Stick Together" in my TBR pile.

 

 

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text 2019-10-12 18:33
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.
The Awkward Squad - Sophie Hénaff,Sam Gordon

 

I'm really enjoying this.

 

It's not quite what I expected. It's not written as a satire, although it is occasionally funny.

 

What makes it different from Anglo versions of the same kind of story is the stoicism of the officers who have been branded as not wanted. They don't throw angry tantrums. They accept where they are and hope that things might get better.

 

The Commisaire in overall charge doesn't use her authority in traditional ways, nor does she allow her boundaries to the set by her bosses. 

 

The members of the squad are interesting rather than stereotypical and it looks as though three cases will be investigated in parallel. 

 

This would make marvelous TV. 

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text 2019-10-11 00:00
Reading progress update: I've read 8%.
The Awkward Squad - Sophie Hénaff,Sam Gordon

 

"The Awkward Squad" is the English translation of *Poulet Grillés", which has a slightly more pejorative feel to it than "The Awkward Squad". It won a couple of prizes when it was released in 2015 and the series of books that followed have been popular.

 

I'm intrigued by the peculiarly French premise of the book: dumping all the failed but unsackable people and all the unsolved cases into one squad so the other squads' stats will look better. There's no expectation that the squad members will turn up never mind solve a case. It's the perfect set up for dry humour, crazy characters and a bit of suspense.

 

I think this is a good fit for International Woman Of Mystery and I'm hoping it will give me a smile or two.

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review 2019-09-30 13:27
Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts.



The Siege of Troy: A novel

Theodor Kallifatides

Translated from the Swedish edition by Marlaine Delargy

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Other Press (September 10, 2019)  

ISBN-10: 159051971X

ISBN-13: 978-1590519714

https://www.amazon.com/Siege-Troy-Novel-Theodor-Kallifatides/dp/159051971X           

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

               

It's been decades since I read Homer's The Iliad,  so my memory of it is extremely dim. I remember many of the stories, the abduction of Helen, the famous Greek warriors who besieged the city of Troy for 10 years, the use of poetic devices like the opening "Invocation to the Muse," the long descriptions of soldier's armor, etc.

 

Now, Swedish author Theodor Kallifatides has re-imagined the Iliad for modern readers and I suspect most non-scholars of Greek literature are going to prefer the new version. For one matter, all the poetic devices are stripped away and replaced by a much simpler prose narrative. For another, Kallifatides created a framework for his retelling that has a Greek schoolteacher recounting the story of The Iliad day-by-day to one of her classes during World War II when airstrikes repeatedly forced the class to run to nearby caves for protection.

The 1940s set part of the novel includes an ongoing love triangle as well as interactions between the German occupiers and local citizens. I'll confess, I was drawn into this story as much as the retelling of events in ancient Troy. It's a fresh approach even if the two storylines don't really parallel each other.

 

In regards to the old, old stories, I had forgotten just how bloody the war was. I was often surprised by the number of combatants. That many warriors, on both sides, dying in droves and droves? Seems historically doubtful, but I could be wrong.

 

I had also forgotten just how Achilles was a stubborn, selfish, and petulant figure. I didn't know his death by way of an arrow in his heel is not a story in the Iliad and thus not in The Siege of Troy either. The same is true of the Trojan Horse episode which wasn't told until Virgil's Aeneid. I didn't know that either until I did some homework to see why things in Homer's poem weren't in the Kallifatides reworking. Well, Kallifatides turns out to be a very faithful adapter of the ancient stories although he left many things out, mostly descriptions of the various armies and the quarrels between the gods which appear much less frequently in The Siege of Troy.

Author Theodor Kallifatides is actually Greek but immigrated to Sweden where his works are first published in Swedish. The Siege of Troy is his second work Translated by Marlaine Delargy, the first being the 2018 Another  Life. Sounds like a book I would like to explore as The Siege of Troy was one of my favorite readings of 2019. Hopefully, for you too.

 

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 25, 2019:

 

 

tor

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text 2019-08-31 15:45
Reading progress update: I've read 39 out of 175 pages.
Poems Of The Late T'ang - A. C. Graham (... Poems Of The Late T'ang - A. C. Graham (Translated)

A lengthy but interesting essay elaborates the challenges of translating Chinese poetry into English.

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