Thursday, June 16, 2011

Against the odds by Marjolijn Hof

I am a huge fan of books in translation. We are so lucky in Australia to be able to read books from so many other English speaking countries - UK, USA, South Africa, New Zealand etc but what about all the other books written in other languages.

I used to love getting books from Turton and Chambers who sourced European titles for our Australian market. So it was with some special anticipation that I sat down to read Against the odds an award winning book from The Netherlands.

This book has quite a harsh cover and I am happy about this because although this is a very slim little volume this is not a book for a sensitive reader. I am very glad I read this book but even now days later I am left with a strong feeling of disquiet. There are some disturbing scenes in this book but they are important as we explore the emotional journey of the main character Kiki.

Kiki's father is a doctor who has gone to assist in a war ravaged but unidentified country - in my mind's eye it felt like The Congo. He is reported missing and Kiki and her mum spend many weeks in a state of uncertainty which is made even harder by constant enquiries by friends and other family members.

The title comes from an innocent conversation between Kiki and her mum where her mum explains "the odds that you'll become a millionaire are very very small. The odds that you'll find a coin the street are a lot bigger. You might not know the exact odds of something happening but you just know there is only a very small chance that you'll become a millionaire. How many millionaires do you know?"

From this Kiki decides if she takes certain actions she can 'change the odds' but this could have disastrous consequences.

Please be warned this book does not have a fairytale ending. You can read a good review here. I will quote from this review - sorry I do not know the reviewer's name :
"The details are bare - we don't know how old our character is, what she looks like, what her interests even are. These are the things that just don't matter when there is so much at stake, when we're dealing with life and death. But what she does share with us, she shares in depth. So much is explored in this book: life, destiny, grief, the horror of disappearance, family dynamics, whether someone should be considered a selfless hero for going to war or a selfish person for leaving their family. Thought provoking, beautiful, raw."

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