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Satellite image of Africa Photo of Najat El Hachmi description

Explore Africa! Click here to go to reviews of 20 great books written by African women.

We interview Najat El-Hachmi, author of The Last Patriarch.

Specters by Egyptian author Radwa Ashour, Chapter One

With this issue Belletrista is marking her second birthday! Over the past two years, all of us here at Belletrista have enjoyed bringing to you a diversity of women writers from around the world, so that we might celebrate together the richness and variety of their literature.

In this issue, we are featuring a special section of twenty reviews of books by women from Africa. While not an exhaustive selection, it's an excellent introduction to women's writing from a vast and varied continent. In keeping with our African theme, we have an exclusive interview with Moroccan/Catalan author Najat El-Hachmi, and an excerpt from Egyptian author Radwa Ashour's latest book to be translated into English. Of course, you'll also find our usual review section of interesting books from around the world, and our largest ever New & Notable section, packed with fine books for your reading pleasure. Whether you are a regular to these pages or a newcomer, thank you for being a Belletrista reader!

Click on 'Reviews' to see the full list of this issue's reviews...
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Adriana Lisboa
Translated from the Portuguese by Sarah Green

It is interesting to read a book that you are certain will be a love story—though you aren't sure whether happy or ill-fated, requited or unrequited—only to find yourself perpetually poised, waiting for that romance to start. Haruki, an illustrator of books, and Celina, an embroidery artist, meet by chance on a subway in Rio de Janeiro.

Reviewed by Tad Deffler
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Gavriela Avigur-Rolem
Translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu

Heatwave and Crazy Birds is a dense and complex, but ultimately rewarding book about one woman's search for 'her' Israel. Rich with historical references but rooted firmly in the present, it is a bittersweet examination of the Israeli people's relationship with the land they live on and the problems it faces.

Reviewed by Andy Barnes
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Allegra Goodman

The Cookbook Collector is one of those instantly engaging books that makes you want to tell all your friends that they must read it even when you are only half way through the novel yourself. Author Allegra Goodman did herself a disservice when she described her new novel as "Sense and Sensibility for the digital age", particularly given the number of outraged responses that subsequently appeared on Jane Austen fan pages. Goodman deals with much bigger issues than Jane Austen ever aspired to write about in her novels, however exquisite those classics might be.

Reviewed by Dorothy Dudek Vinicombe
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S. J. Finn

I inhale. Realign my chair, which slides a little too easily under me. I do have one niggling concern (there are several but this is the one that comes to mind): while I will go on feeling as transparent as air, what I'm about to put in writing will show itself in a dense hue, one that might even shock me. —With these thoughts we are introduced to Jen, now known as Monty, who goes on to simply and honestly recount the changes that have occurred in her life.

Reviewed by Judy Lim
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Monica Roffey

Glorious colours riotously abound in Monique Roffey's first novel: 'deep purples, maroons, reds and oranges'. It is set in a delicatessen cum cafe in Shepherd's Bush, London where large, ungainly August Chalmin presides over culinary riches.

Reviewed by Chris Mills

Ali Smith's
There But For the
Book Cover: There But for the
An extended review by Rachael Beale
If Written By a Woman
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The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011 – shortlist announced

The shortlist for this year’s Caine Prize has just been announced and three women are in the running for the prestigious award. This is always an exciting time of year – the Prize is a great way to discover short stories by excellent writers. Lucky for us, the Prize’s website links to a copy of …Read the Rest