A read for Women in Translation Month that I can’t tell you about

Bibliobio is hosting a Women in Translation Month right now, to call attention to the gender disparity in books translated into English, and to celebrate the works of female international authors whose books are being translated into English. It’s a wonderful initiative, even if you are like me and you have a hard time with books in translation, and you should definitely check out the hashtags for the month (#WITMonth or #WomeninTranslation) to see what folks are reading!

I have struggled long and hard to write a post about the first book I read for Women in Translation Month, and there just isn’t any version of the post I can write that will spare you from major important spoilers. Because here is the thing: The first book I read for Women in Translation Month bears certain very strong similarities to this one American book that you have all heard of, and so I can’t talk about either one of them without spoiling them for people who haven’t read both.

The first book I read for Women in Translation Month is about some people who find themselves in a new situation that’s not totally comfortable to them, and it brings out some traits in them that were already present but maybe not quite so noticeable. It’s also about this other person who’s not totally comfortable with the new people who are around him/her, and the new people bring out some traits in him/her that were also already present but maybe not quite so noticeable at first. I’d like to say a little bit here about point of view, but I think it would make the comparison to that one American book you’ve all heard of too obvious.

When I read that one American book you’ve all heard of, I knew what was going on because I had heard about it from the internet. When I read the first book I read for Women in Translation Month, I didn’t know what was going on at first because it’s way less famous than that one American book you’ve all heard of. But then I read the end, so it was okay. Just like in that one American book you’ve all heard of, the ending of the first book I read for Women in Translation Month turns out okay for some people and less okay for other people. You have to draw your own conclusions about what happens to some of the characters, but that is okay by me.

If you liked that one American book you’ve all heard of, you might like this one too, or you might feel like one of the two books was the lame version of the other one. In any case, I can’t really recommend this book based on your liking for the American book, because if I did that you’d know all the spoilers for this one, and if you’re a spoiler-disliker, that might ruin your enjoyment of it and cancel out how much you might have liked it on the basis of its similarity to that one American book you’ve all heard of. But if you do happen across the first book I read for Women in Translation Month, just know that I enjoyed reading it (though probably not as much as that one American book you’ve all heard of, because I really do struggle with reading books in translation), and I’d say go ahead and try it! if I could do that without spoiling everything for you.

I’ve said too much. I’d better stop.

Edit to add: I swear I just meant this post as a joke, but everyone says it comes off like a riddle. Not intended to be one! If it had been a riddle I would have given some legitimate clues. So now I’m going to tell you what the two books are. But just know that if you read one of them, it will spoil you for the other one. You can highlight the following text to learn which books they are. The German book is Juli Zeh’s newest, Decompression, and the American book you’ve all heard of is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Sorry! I didn’t mean to be mysterious, just funny.

  • Hahahaha! This is brilliant.

    • Gin Jenny

      Thanks, hahaha. 😀

  • anna

    You are strange.

    • Gin Jenny

      YOU are.

      • anna

        I don’t think many people would dispute that…

  • Can you tel us what language the book was translated from, or the publisher of one or both of the books? Because I don’t have a clue on this one!

    • Gin Jenny

      German! It was translated from German.

  • Well, I DO think you could at least name the book you read. Unless it is subtitled: A [Better/Lamer] Version of [American Book].

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahahaha, I will tell you privately, Mumsy darling.

  • I want to know about these just because I am a very curious person! Email me. 🙂

    • Gin Jenny


  • I am so useless at puzzles. I need more clues! Or someone just give me the answer. That works, too.

    • Gin Jenny

      I didn’t intend it as a puzzle, I truly was just being silly. But I will update the post with the answer, because so many people have asked.

  • Cryptic!

    I feel you about books in translation. If it’s French I suffer from the perpetual delusion that I will just read the original, despite the fact that this has never once happened.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, oh Lord, me too. I never read anything from ancient Rome because I’m always convinced I’ll read THAT in the original as well. Sure I will, when I have INFINITY FREE TIME.

  • I was going to guess the Chaos trilogy but that didn’t sound right halfway through… Hmm, you have me guessing here .. you better let me know which book this is. 😀

    • Gin Jenny

      Okay, I will update the post in a bit, I swear.

      • Oops, haha! I knew you didn’t mean to write this post as a riddle, but you know how these minds work, ahem, cannot ever ignore a puzzle or riddle or mystery. 🙂 I was far off the mark from the actual book you meant.

  • Just LOL. 🙂

    • Gin Jenny


  • That’s just so cruel, especially for those of us who probably haven’t read – or even heard about – the one American book, and now feel doubly left out. Unless it’s 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve heard about that one.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahahah, I absolutely promise that you have heard of the American book. I didn’t mean to be cruel, I was just being silly!

      • And now I feel bad that we made you feel bad 😉 But like Athira says upthread, so many of us can’t resist puzzling.

  • I have no idea what book this is- but I’m chuckling regardless.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, good! That was my only intention!

  • I have no clue which books you’re talking about. You could probably tell me the name of the American book and I would still have no clue what you’re talking about. Also, I had no idea that it’s WIT month and I probably should know that, seeing as how I like to read translated fiction. I put all this down to the fact that I avoid social media these days, which is a good stress reduction measure but it does leave me extra-clueless. Oh well.

    The perils of not wanting to post spoilers! 🙂

    • Gin Jenny

      I was just kidding honestly! I post spoilers all the time. I sometimes have to remind myself to be careful about spoilers — I care about them so little, it’s easy to forget that other people care about them A LOT.

  • I don’t get you worrying about posting spoilers because I couldn’t even begin to guess that book you are talking about.

    I then looked at the comments and was so relieved when I saw everyone else so far is as puzzled as I am :D.

    Will you be posting the answer sometime soon?

    • Gin Jenny

      I feel so dumb for not realizing that people would think this was a puzzle! It wasn’t meant that way; it was only meant as a joke. But yes, I will be posting the answer today.

  • What a fabulous idea! The Women in Translation initiative.

    And add me to the totally confused but I *think* I might understand the dilemma. I can’t think of any German female authors and that saddens me greatly.

    • Gin Jenny

      I can’t think of any besides this one. 🙁

  • Ha! I read this post the other day and thought I could guess what the American book was, and I was right! It was only because it’s so hard to talk about that book without spoiling it. And I happened to run across the German author’s name recently and thought I’d try her books, so maybe I’ll try it.

  • Because I am apparently clairvoyant (or perhaps you did do a good job with your “silly” clues:0) I guessed the American book you were talking about correctly. Weirdly after that little bit of guesswork I did not immediately deduce the German counterpart. I’m apparently and English speaking snob.

  • I did! I guessed the American book! I feel so very, very clever.

  • aartichapati

    I guessed the American book! Mostly, though, because you said you looked up the plot on the internet, and I remember that from your review. Still, #memoryftw!