The Book of the Month for January is Sophie van Llewyn's Bottled Goods.
Bottled Goods follows Alina whose life is turned upside down when her brother-in-law defects to the West and she and her husband become persons of interest to the secret services, causing both of their careers to come grinding to a halt. As the strain takes its toll on their marriage, Alina turns to her aunt for help – the wife of a communist leader and a secret practitioner of the old folk ways. Set in 1970s communist Romania, Llewyn's novella draws upon magic realism to weave a tale of everyday troubles that is brutally beautiful.
I was first made aware of this novel when it was longlisted for the Women's Prize but unfortunately it kept getting pushed to that back of my TBR shelf. However, as part of my challenge to read a book from every country I reached for Llewyn's novel whilst on holiday recently and I'm so glad I did. The novella is marked by its simplicity of language and short chapters which give only brief glimpses of Alina's life whilst simultaneously portraying the suffocating reality of the 'long shadow' cast by Communist rule. I learnt so much from this novel about the history of Romania and so I was very excited to see from Llewyn's Twitter account that it appears she is well into writing her next novel.