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Booker International Longlist 2023 – Boulder


Book 4 Boulder by Eva Baltasar Translated by Julia Sanches

Reviewed by Rachel & Tracy

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: Eva Baltasar demonstrates her pre-eminence as a chronicler of queer voices navigating a hostile world – in prose as brittle and beautiful as an ancient saga.

Working as a cook on a merchant ship, a woman comes to know and love Samsa, who gives her the nickname ‘Boulder’. When the couple decide to move to Reykjavik together, Samsa announces that she wants to have a child. She is already 40 and can’t bear to let the opportunity pass her by.

Boulder is less enthused but doesn’t know how to say no – and so finds herself dragged along on a journey that feels as thankless as it is alien. With motherhood changing Samsa into a stranger, Boulder must decide where her priorities lie, and whether her yearning for freedom will trump her yearning for love.

Rachel’s Thoughts:  I began by loving this – the unique settings, the character of Boulder, and a(nother) look at resistance to parenthood, this time within a long-term lesbian relationship. However, by the mid-point (and it’s a very short book) I was flagging. The writing, which I know so many people love, felt overdone. It kept throwing me out of the story. And no-one around Boulder seemed entirely real, although in seeing the world through her eyes, that was probably the point. I did, however, appreciate the ending.

Sadly not one I loved, but I wouldn’t hesitate to read more of Baltasar’s books.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality 3/5
Character development 3/4
Plot development 3/4
Overall enjoyment 1/2
Total 13/20

Tracy’s Thoughts: This is a newer take on an old story: one partner wants a baby, and the other partner questions their commitment to this relationship.

The newer take is that the story is being told by the rat fink that wants out.

That may be a bit harsh, given that neither of these women is likable. One is whiny and a bit demanding. But she’s hot, so the other one sticks around, even follows her to Iceland to continue the relationship. You can see where this is going.

And that predictability, as well as the, honestly, sexist asshole attitude- I mean, come on- this is supposed to be feminist writing!- is what frustrated me so much about this book.

It’s like Baltasar was angry at someone, and this is her hate letter to all the women who are becoming like the men all us women despise. Which may be why it could actually win this prize. Paradox anyone?

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: ¾
Plot development: ¾
Overall enjoyment: ½
Total: 14/20

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Still Born 17.25
Ninth Building 16
Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv 16
Whale 15.5
Boulder 13.5

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