Small Deaths by @RijulaDas #BlogTour @FMcMAssociates

I am delighted to be a part of the book tour for the release of this translated title, Small By Rijula Das, published by Amazon Crossing.

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In the red-light district of Shonagachhi, Lalee dreams of trading a life of
penury and violence for one of relative luxury as a better-paid ‘escort’.
Her long-standing client, Trilokeshwar ‘Tilu’ Shau is an erotic novelist
hopelessly in love with her.
When a young girl who lives next door to Lalee gets brutally murdered, a spiral
of deceit and crime begins to disturb the fragile stability of this underworld’s
existence. One day, without notice, Lalee’s employer and landlady, the
formidable Shefali Madam, decrees that she must now service wealthier
clients at plush venues outside the familiar walls of the brothel. But the new
job is fraught with unknown hazards and drives Lalee into a nefarious web of
prostitution, pimps, sex rings, cults and unimaginable secrets that endanger
her life and that of numerous women like her.
As the local Sex Workers’ Collective’s protests against government and police
inaction and calls for justice for the deceased girl gain fervour, Tilu Shau must
embark on a life-altering misadventure to ensure Lalee does not meet a
similarly savage fate.
Winner of the 2021 Tata Literature Live! First Book Award – Fiction
Longlisted for The JCB Prize for Literature 2021
SMALL DEATHS
Rijula Das
Set in Calcutta’s most fabled neighbourhood, Small Deaths is a literary noir
as absorbing as it is heart-wrenching, holding within it an unforgettable
story of our society’s outcasts and marking the arrival of a riveting new
writer.

My Review

Small Deaths by Rijula Das


I was intrigued by this book after reading the blurb I was sent.
A book centred around the oldest profession in time, set in the town of Shonagachhi, Calcutta, in India.
We start by getting to know Tilu, an aspiring author of erotica who wants to get better recognition for more literary work. He visits the Blue Lotus in Shonagachhi whenever he can afford it to meet Lalee, his favourite concubine.
A visit there ends with the other inhabitants of the house finding the body of one of the girls who lives among them.
What follows is a tale of true sadness. These women don’t choose to be dragged into prostitution; however, once there, they are estranged from their loved ones due to the shame of the work they have been made to do. The other girls become their families. But nothing can stop the way society taints them and how they are looked upon as public property; the johns do whatever they want, and the madams who are there to ‘look after’ them are just as bad, selling them from one bad situation to another, and not often a better one.
Here, an awful sex trafficking ring is exposed, involving a much-respected ‘holy’ man. But the violence that is used toward women is horrific.
It made for uncomfortable reading, in some ways, but the sad truth is that these things do happen the world over; it’s just that we aren’t all privy to the knowledge.
We see the story unfold through several viewpoints, including the above two characters, other girls from the Blue Lotus, police officers, a pimp, and some other random characters, which can be a little confusing but adds another layer to the story.
An interesting but heartrending read.

About the Author

Rijula Das received her PhD in Creative Writing/prose-fiction in 2017 from
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where she taught writing
for two years. She is a recipient of the 2019 Michael King Writers Centre
Residency in Auckland and the 2016 Dastaan Award for her short story
Notes From A Passing. Her short story, The Grave of The Heart Eater, was
longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2019. Her short
fiction and translations have appeared in Newsroom, New Zealand and
The Hindu. She lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand.

Author Q & A

Tell us a little bit about your book, Small Deaths?
Set entirely in the Calcutta’s red light district, Small Deaths is the story of Lalee, a sex worker trafficked into the trade as
a child who dreams of trading her precarious life for that of a better-paid escort. Tilu Shau, her loyal client, makes a living
writing cheap erotica and dreams of literary fame and Lalee’s love. When a young woman is murdered in Lalee’s brothel,
the two of them are drawn into a misadventure that threatens the fragile stability of their lives and forces them to ask
what is the price of one’s right to dignity, a future and a life?


The book was originally published as A Death in Shonagachhi – what role does the setting of Shonagachhi play in your novel?
Sonagachi is a neighbourhood in North Kolkata, and the largest red-light district in Asia with several hundred multi-storey
brothels where more than 30,000 commercial sex workers live and work. It is rare to find works of fiction set entirely in
this area, even though the neighbourhood is one of Calcutta’s oldest. The novel is a product of my doctoral research on
the relationship between sexual violence on women in India and public space; I looked at how we ‘allow’ women to access
public spaces, and what punishments are meted out to them when they violate the unwritten rules. The red light district
in traditional, patriarchal societies is a space of contradictions. They are often the oldest of neighbourhood, well-known
and yet, unacknowledged spaces. I wanted to understand the way sex workers access a city where they are invisible
citizens –– how they live, die, advocate, organise and make a life that is uniquely their own.


Why was it important to you to tell this story now?
Living in the world we do, it is easy to forget that women’s rights are not actually indelible and unalienable. It is easy to be
lulled into a sense of security. But women’s rights, or indeed the rights of vulnerable people, irrespective of gender identity
is under siege at all times, many instances of which we are witnessing at present time. The right to bodily autonomy is an
unfinished fight for us, as is the constant fight for the recognition and acknowledgement of women’s labour, wherever
that may take place. Stories from the margins like that of women like Lalee, because they are real, living women, are a
useful and timely reminder of where we are and how easy it is to deny human rights to vulnerable people even in this age.


How do you do your research? Your research specifically looks at the connections between public space and sexual
violence – how did this inform your writing of Small Deaths?

There is a wealth of both academic research and case studies and interviews with the sex workers of Shonagachhi. Social
welfare organisations are extremely active in the area and have extensive grassroots knowledge. As I wrote Small Deaths
over 7 years, the research seeped into the work, informing the fictional narrative, and sometimes changing or adding to
the course of events. In creative work research informs the lived experience of the book’s universe, but it should never
get in the way of the narrative. It’s often a tight-rope walk.


Tell us more about writing truthfully about sexual violence and why it was important to write on this theme?
We’ve always written about sexual violence, but how we do it, matters. What we decide to show and what we decide to
leave unsaid, matters. Very often we see gratuitous, even erotic portrayal of sexual violence in fiction. As someone who
has faced sexual and other forms of violence as a woman, it changes the way I could write about it. I had to ask –– at what
point does writing a sexual violence scene become voyeurism? How do I write with authenticity, empathy and truth and
still reserve dignity for those on whom the violence occurs? Whose eyes and heart does the chapter look through, is it the
victim or the abuser? There are certain expectations when a book deals with the life of women trafficked into sex-work,
but the greatest satisfaction, for me, came in subverting any pandering to trauma-porn, or a representation of abject and
unabated victimhood because that is not consistent with the reality of life on the margins.

Were there news stories that particularly inspired your work?
Small Deaths is inspired by real people and real events, and where reality is shocking, invention is not only unnecessary
but a travesty. I wanted the book to cleave as close to reality as possible and as such, a number of real events have inspired
the action in the book. The scandal of an ashram called Dera Sacha Sauda where a powerful, self-styled guru held women
hostage in a warren of rooms and sexually abused them for years has inspired events in the book. The disappearances and
deaths of sex workers, and the migration of women across international borders for sex work in coercive circumstances
have inspired both characters and events. It is however not one event, but a landscape and an ecosystem developed over
decades that this story has grown from.


Are there any books that you would recommend to explore more about the themes in your novel?
There are a number of academic works that I read and referred to while writing this book. Fictional work set entirely in
Shonagachhi is harder to come by.


You have translated a number of books in your work, including Nabarun Bhattacharya’s short fiction. How do you
think your translation work helps to inform your writing?

Translation has definitely influenced how I use language. How we use English as Indian writers is evolving as our relationship
with English becomes more organic, more intertwined with our multilinguality. Reading in diverse literary traditions, as
translation helps us do, also changes my relationship with narrative form and storytelling.


What made you want to become a writer? Why fiction?
I’m not sure we decide to become a writer any more than we decide to become ourselves. It does take a certain amount
of practice, showing up for it over decades, a lot of hard work without any promise of reward or even the assurance that
one should persevere, but we write because there is no other way to exist. Fiction allows me, personally, the necessary
distance from myself to explore places that would feel too exposing to do as autobiography. It is also the sheer joy of
being in other people’s heads, creating characters who are entirely different from me, and watching them take-off on
their adventures.


Which other writers have informed your work?
It is hard to see my own influences. I often read people whose work I enjoy as a reader but as a writer, we’d be widely
different. I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan. His comedic brilliance and timing is so effective and subtle that you almost don’t
realise the sheer genius required to pull it off. Jeanette Wintersen, Marguerite Duras and Borges have been abiding
influences.


What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
To stick with it. People often think of talent as the sole variable that makes a writer, and while there is such a thing,
another very important variable is the ability to stay the course. It takes time to make even a bad book, a good one can
and does take time to see the light of day.


What’s next for you?
I’m finishing a translation of Nabarun Bhattacharya’s novel, soon to be published by Seagull Books. After that I hope to
focus on my second novel.

Women Like Us by @MrsAmandaProwse #BlogTour #AudioBook @FMcMAssociates @AmazonPub

I am so thrilled and honoured to be host to the absolutely fabulous and indeed down-to-earth literary sister of mine, Amanda Prowse. And we kick off the Audio Book Tour here on But I Smile Anyway!

Amanda’s most recent release, Women Like Us, is not a work of fiction but a memoir, and I cannot stress enough how amazing a read (and listen it is)!

I think you should read the blurb first, before reading my review.

Blurb

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?
If you look behind her, you’ll see me.

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency—and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible—against the odds—to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success from a woman who’s done it all, and then some. 

As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and an audio version.

Amanda has narrated all her audiobooks, and to hear this whole book in her own words was just fantastic and added another layer of genuine feeling to the whole experience. Her voice is so soothing, and you feel she is talking to you personally.

And so to my review!

Women Like Us: A Memoir by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know when you read books, and you have that favourite author?
Then she goes and releases a memoir, and you just HAVE to read it because you are in awe of her?
That was me when I heard that Amanda Prowse was writing her story.
She has always come across as a true, down-to-earth, ‘real’ woman, who has had her fair share of struggles, including being an army wife, battling cancer, and how her family coped with the depression her son Josiah went through due to them both writing about it.
Yet, she has never been afraid to talk about these things.
I felt I already knew her.
But reading Women Like Us made me aware of how much I didn’t know.
We all have a backstory, and it is that which moulds us to be the people we become.
Amanda Prowse has opened up about her life in a way that I feel will relate to many women.
Without wanting to give too much away, because I would urge anyone reading this to read the book themselves, Amanda’s life has had huge amounts of love poured into it by her wonderful family and husband.
However, there have been events and situations that have tested her and almost broken her at times.
An undiagnosed medical condition, loss, abuse, miscarriages, and that overwhelming feeling of never being good enough or thin enough.
I read each chapter, and yes, there were times I smiled and laughed out loud. I’m as clumsy as Mrs Prowse and could relate to many things she wrote.
My eyes moistened at other times, reading about some of the things Amanda had gone through.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I realised that some situations hit much closer to home than others. I’ve been there before, too, and maybe, I’m there right now.
And Amanda has come out of the other side, not necessarily unscathed, but a brighter, happier, more positive woman for it.
It takes a brave person to open up the way Amanda has, and I truly applaud her. I would be giving her the hugest of hugs right now if she was in front of me.
Amanda, thank goodness you managed to overcome the words of that English teacher because where would I be without my Prowse books?

This woman, honestly, I love her to bits!

About the Author

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty-six novels,
non-fiction titles and seven novellas have been published in dozens of languages around the world. Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres. Her books, including the chart-topping No.1 titles What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter, My Husband’s Wife, The Girl in the Corner and The Things I Know have sold millions of copies across the globe.
A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She also makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations, including
LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour. Described by the Daily Mail as ‘The queen of family drama’ Amanda’s novel, A Mother’s Story won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the Year Award while Perfect Daughter was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016.

The Blunder by @muttlon #BlogTour @fmcmassociates

Today I am hosting a translated fiction release by Mutt-Lon, The Blunder.

The Blurb

From a bold voice in African fiction comes a satirical and unputdownable reimagining of an overlooked episode in Cameroon’s colonial past.

Cameroon, 1929. As colonial powers fight for influence in Africa, French military surgeon Eugène Jamot is dispatched to Cameroon to lead the fight against sleeping sickness there. But despite his humanitarian intentions, the worst comes to pass: seven hundred local villagers are left blind as a result of medical malpractice by a doctor under Jamot’s watch.

Damienne Bourdin, a young white woman, ventures to Cameroon to assist in the treatment effort. Reeling from the loss of her child, she’s desperate to redeem herself and save her reputation. But the tides of rebellion are churning in Cameroon, and soon after Damienne’s arrival, she is enlisted in a wild plot to staunch the damage caused by the blunder and forestall tribal warfare. Together with Ndongo, a Pygmy guide, she must cross the country on foot in search of Edoa, a Cameroonian princess and nurse who has gone missing since the medical blunder was discovered.

As Damienne races through the Cameroonian forest on a farcical adventure that unsettles her sense of France’s “civilizing mission,” she begins to question her initial sense of who needed saving and who would save the day.

You are lucky enough to read an extract from The Blunder here, today!

Damienne Bourdin’s first priority, as she emerged from the airport, was to track down the Pygmy guide who’d saved her life in 1929. She hadn’t set foot in Cameroon for thirty-two years, and wondered if it might be a waste of time to look for him. Most of the protagonists of “the blunder” were no longer living, and the guide might have died too, like Dr. Jamot and native chief Atangana. It was important she find out, because if that strange fellow was still alive, Damienne wouldn’t dare return to the scene of the revolt without him.
The France-Soir she was leafing through mentioned a monument in honor of Dr. Jamot in front of the Ministry of Public Health and also the facilities he’d left behind in 1931, now a hospital bearing his name. In the taxi on the way to the hospital, she kept her nose glued to the window. How Yaoundé had changed! There was asphalt in the city center, electricity, a big traffic circle, and people weren’t wandering around in loincloths. Some blocks of houses still had mud walls, but only a few were thatched or had roofs covered in straw or woven raffia mats. Buildings were going up, Peugeots and Renaults racing around them every which way, like ants. Drivers shouted through open windows as they passed each other on either side, but Damienne didn’t mind the chaos, she was just relieved she wouldn’t have to walk the whole way to Bafia this time.
The area around the hospital was completely transformed, not one landmark from her time there survived. Still, Damienne recognized the hospital itself right away. She noticed as she approached that no additions had been made; at most, they’d slapped a coat of lime on a few walls.
Inside, she found that Dr. Jamot’s apartment had become the radiology department, and the room where she’d spent the night was now a pulmonologist’s office. Since sleeping sickness had been largely eradicated, the Jamot Hospital focused on psychiatry and fighting tuberculosis—there were sickly people with emaciated faces everywhere. Damienne offered a prayer that this new prevention campaign, unlike the last, would be blunder free, and that no other French doctor would experience what she’d lived through under Dr. Jamot.
The director of the hospital was reading a newspaper, its front page dedicated to President Kennedy, assassinated six days earlier. He greeted Damienne with the particular courtesy reserved for those who regularly appear in the press. He was honored to meet her, he’d read almost all of her books, and particularly loved the last one, about the Jamot Mission, for which she’d won numerous prizes. Since the book was about to be made into a film, he offered to put the hospital facilities at the disposal of the film crew. Damienne was obliged to answer all his admiring questions, and even accept an invitation for dinner with him and his wife, before she could raise the subject she had come to discuss. Was the Pygmy still alive? After what felt like an eternity, the director gathered all the hospital personnel together, and they found an old nurse who said he’d met Ndongo, the Pygmy in question. T
he nurse had last seen him toward the end of the 1930s, before Ndongo went home to Bipindi.
So Damienne went to Bipindi to look for him. Bipindi was in a part of the bush that hadn’t changed for thousands of years, and Damienne thought to herself that in some ways, the town seemed more backward than the remote villages she’d gone through back in 1929. Here, everyone was a hunter, even the women, and no one needed to go far from their home to hunt game. One inquiry and two false leads later, the Pygmy was found. Ndongo was alive. When at last she saw him, Damienne
hugged and kissed him without hesitation, and burst into tears before his whole surprised clan. Ndongo hadn’t changed much, still wiry and stunted, but now an old man. Like Damienne’s, the skin on his hands was paper thin. He lived with his wife and children in mungulus, huts made of branches and green leaves, which she’d once seen him build in just a few minutes, on that unforgettable day when they were lost in the forest . . .
What struck her most was his attire: Ndongo still wore a loincloth fashioned from an animal hide. He was bare chested and had the same amulets tied around his waist and biceps as he’d worn on the day they’d said farewell. She couldn’t believe it! In his small, lively eyes, Damienne saw a flash of that primitive man she remembered so well. There was one remarkable change: Ndongo spoke French. She was almost chagrined that she no longer needed to act things out for him.
He agreed to go with her to Bafia.

My Review

An interesting book based on a historical event, but with a fictional twist.
Mutt-Lon has taken the little-known pandemic of Sleeping Sickness that swept Cameroon in the early 2oth century and its subsequent mishandling by a white doctor and added his own flavour.
We follow the story through the eyes of another white doctor, female, Damienne Bourdin, who is sent to help ease tensions in the villages where it has become apparent that the incorrect treatment by one particular doctor has resulted in many natives getting better from the pandemic, but ending up blind.
Reading fiction that has been translated is always hard, as the passion that comes through the native tongue of a writer is tough to replicate in other languages, however, the translator has done a pretty good job of giving a true feel for the story and the characters.
There is a little jumping around within the story, in terms of the present and the past, and sometimes points of view are a little erratic, but, once I got into the story, I really wanted to know what happened at the end, and whether everything was resolved!

Mutt-Lon is the literary pseudonym of author Nsegbe Daniel Alain. His first novel Ceux qui sortent dans la nuit (Those Who Come Out At Night, 2013), brought him critical claim when it received the prestigious Ahmadou Kourouma Prize in 2014. Les 700 aveugles de Bafia (2020), published in English as The Blunder, is his third novel and the first to be translated into English. He lives in Douala – Cameroon’s most international and cosmopolitan city – and speaks English fluently

Amy B. Reid is an award-winning translator who has worked with authors from Cameroon, Côts d’Ivoire, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti.

Dele Weds Destiny by @TomiObaro @HodderBooks #BookTour

I do love a good book tour and when I got asked to take part in this particular one, I jumped at it, as I had already read the book concerned as an ARC!

Today we look at Dele Weds Destiny, by Tomi Obaro.

The story of three once-inseparable college friends in Nigeria who reunite in Lagos for the first time in thirty years–a sparkling debut novel about mothers and daughters, culture and class, sex and love, and the extraordinary resilience of female friendship.

Funmi, Enitan, and Zainab first meet at university in Nigeria and become friends for life despite their differences. Funmi is beautiful, brash, and determined; Enitan is homely and eager, seeking escape from her single mother’s smothering and needy love; Zainab is elegant and reserved, raised by her father’s first two wives after her mother’s death in childbirth. Their friendship is complicated but enduring, and over the course of the novel, the reader learns about their loves and losses. How Funmi stole Zainab’s boyfriend and became pregnant, only to have an abortion and lose the boyfriend to police violence. How Enitan was seduced by an American Peace Corps volunteer, the only one who ever really saw her, but is culturally so different from him–a Connecticut WASP–that raising their daughter together put them at odds. How Zainab fell in love with her teacher, a friend of her father’s, and ruptured her relationship with her father to have him.

Now, some thirty years later, the three women are reunited for the first time, in Lagos. The occasion: Funmi’s daughter, Destiny, is getting married. Enitan brings her American daughter, Remi. Zainab travels by bus, nervously leaving her ailing husband in the care of their son. Funmi, hosting the weekend with her wealthy husband, wants everything to go perfectly. But as the big day approaches, it becomes clear that something is not right. As the novel builds powerfully, the complexities of the mothers’ friendship–and the private wisdom each has earned–come to bear on a riveting, heartrending moment of decision. Dele Weds Destiny is a sensational debut from a dazzling new voice in contemporary fiction.

My Review

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love reading books from different cultural backgrounds to myself and they feel like an education to me.
Dele Weds Destiny is set in Nigeria and the story is told through the eyes of three different protagonists; old friends from university.
The story jumps over there different eras, their childhood background, their university years and 2015, when one of them has a daughter getting married, and they are finally together after many years.
All three characters, though Nigerian, come from very different backgrounds and the book explores the familial expectations, the friendship these three young women forge, disappointments, and sacrifices, as well as how fortunes can turn.
A rich, cultural explosion.

Tomi Obaro is a Brooklyn-based writer and senior culture editor at BuzzFeed News. Dele Weds Destiny is her debut novel.

She writes cultural criticism, features, and personal essays which appear t BuzzFeed News, The Morning News, and The Toast.

She can be found on Twitter @TomiObaro and on her personal Website, tomiobaro.com.


No Place To Run by @mredwards #BlogTour @fmcmassociates

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to read and review this amazing book, by Mark Edwards. His latest release, No Place To Run, is the first of his books that I have read, and I was hooked!

Two years ago, on a trip to Seattle to visit her brother Aidan, fifteen-year old Scarlett vanished into thin air. After years of false leads and dead ends, Aidan has almost given up hope.
But then a woman sees a girl running for her life across a forest clearing in Northern California. She is convinced the girl is the missing Scarlett. But could it really be her?
Heading south, Aidan finds a fire-ravaged town covered in missing-teenager posters. The locals seem afraid, the police won’t answer any questions and it looks like another dead end―until a chance meeting with returned local Lana gives Aidan his first clue. But as they piece together what happened, Lana and
Aidan make deadly enemies. Enemies willing to do anything to silence them.
Only one thing matters now: finding Scarlett―even if it kills him.

My Review

No Place To Run by Mark Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first Mark Edwards book, and I have to say I was not disappointed at all!
An email out of the blue alerts Aidan to the possibility that his sister who has been missing for two years, may have been found.
Aiden is a Brit who moved to the US for work, and his 15-year-old sister went missing while visiting him.
I was hooked within a few pages, as I became immersed in the story.
And what a story!
Following Aidan, as he chases up a lead from a train passenger who is convinced she recognises a girl seen running across a field as his missing sister, we are pulled into a darker, twist in the tale, as sinister goings-on are uncovered in a small southern town, involving other missing youngsters.
I don’t want to give much away, but, as I said before, I couldn’t stop reading, and the ending was totally unexpected!

About the Author

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in
which scary things happen to ordinary people.
Mark has sold over 3.5 million books since his first
solo novel, The Magpies, was published in 2013
and has topped the bestseller lists numerous
times. His other novels include Follow You Home,
Here To Stay and The House Guest. He has also published six books co-authored with Louise Voss.
His last book, The Hollows, was published in July 2021. Mark lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and two cats. He Tweets at @mredwards.

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