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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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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
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Lara Fergus

This fine novel grows out of the tension between order and chaos. Civil war brings chaos to previously orderly lands, and maps bring order and a finite structure to an endlessly disordered world. Yet seeking perfect order in life can itself bring a sort of chaos. These tensions play out in the lives of two sisters, refugees from a country destroyed by war.

Reviewed by Michael W. Matthew
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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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Elena Poniatowska
Translated from the Spanish by Deanna Heikennen

The Skin of the Sky follows the life of Lorenzo de Tena, one of Mexico's most celebrated astronomers. His childhood bond with his doting mother is shattered by her early death, leaving him to be raised by an apathetic father. His mother's …

Reviewed by Andy Barnes
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Ana Menéndez

How does one escape? From what one does one need to escape? Why? Ana Menéndez's new collection of interlinked tales is all about escape artists, starting with the author herself. Each tale is attributed to a concocted author, for whom Menéndez has supplied an appropriately imaginative biographical note, including one for herself: "Ana Menéndez is the pseudonym of an imaginary writer and translator, invented, if not to lend coherence to this collection, at least to offer it the pretense of contemporary relevance."

Reviewed by Jane A. Jones

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