About the Author

Gwendolyn Dawson

Book Review: Open City by Teju Cole (Nigeria)

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson From the very first paragraph, Teju Cole’s debut novel announces itself as the tale of a wanderer: “And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city … These walks, a counterpoint to my busy days at the hospital, steadily …

BOOK REVIEW: Solo by Rana Dasgupta (UK/Bulgaria)

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson Solo by Rana Dasgupta is a diptych of a novel composed of two related but independent halves. In the first half, a blind, 100-year-old Bulgarian man named Ulrich reminiscences about his life from the vantage point of his squalid apartment overlooking a train station in Sofia, the Bulgarian town in which Ulrich spent the vast majority of …

Book Review: Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk (South Africa)

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson At the beginning of this epic novel, seventy-year-old Milla de Wet is confined to her bed. Once the strong and competent owner of a successful farm inherited from her mother, Milla suffers from A.L.S. and now is left with only the ability to blink her eyes and, after a while, not even that. Milla is entirely dependent on …

Book Review: On Elegance While Sleeping by Viscount Emilio Tegui

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson Emilio Lascano Tegui (1887-1966) was, at various times during his eventful life, an Argentinean, a Parisian, a self-labeled viscount, a translator, a journalist, a curator, a painter, a decorator, a diplomat, a mechanic, an orator, a dentist, and, fortunately for us, a writer. Tegui’s 1925 novel On Elegance While Sleeping, a cult classic in Argentina, Tegui’s home country, …

Book Review: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson As might be guessed from its title, one of the primary characters (14-year-old Skippy) dies within this novel’s first few pages. After that unexpected death, which interrupts a doughnut-eating contest between roommates, the narrative jumps backwards in time to cover the events leading up to that fateful event. Along the way, Skippy Dies touches on every imaginable component of …

Book Review: Enough About Love by Hervé Le Tellier

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

Reviewed by Gwendolyn Dawson In true Oulipo fashion, Hervé Le Tellier’s latest novel, Enough About Love, is a constraint-filled endeavor. With a structure inspired by a game of Abkhazian dominoes, Le Tellier’s six protagonists combine and recombine in every possible two-person configuration in short chapters titled according to their major players (e.g., Yves and Anna, Thomas and Louise). The chapters …

Book Review: Rose Tremain’s Trespass

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson Beginning with the very first chapter, in which a young girl makes a shocking discovery in a creek while on a school field trip, Trespass overflows with foreboding and suspense.  The novel progresses in two alternating  story lines.  In one, an alcoholic man living in the Cévennes region of southern France is seduced by the money he …

Book Review: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson’s latest novel and the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, is an exploration of love, death, grief, friendship, and what it means to be Jewish in contemporary London.  At the novel’s beginning, Julian Treslove is mugged after leaving a dinner party with his two best friends, Sam Finkler and Libor Sevick.  …

Book Review: The Elephant’s Journey by José Saramago

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson José Saramago’s novel The Elephant’s Journey, published after his death earlier this year, borrows its action from an actual historical event: the gift of an elephant by the king of Portugal to the Archduke of Austria in 1551 and the elephant’s subsequent journey to its new home. Filled with charm and whimsy, it reads like an adult …

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

In Book Review by Gwendolyn Dawson

By Gwendolyn Dawson Told from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy named Jack, Donoghue’s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Room is the story of a mother and her child held in captivity in a 121 square-foot room. Jack was born in the room and knows no other existence. To him, the small space is the entire world, and he and his mother are …