Tuesday, 1 December 2020

You Can Smile On Wednesdays by Zdravka Evtimova

You Can Smile On Wednesdays by Zdravka Evtimova
Published by Fomite on the 8th February 2020.

Y for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge which I have now completed!

2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge

To read a book beginning with each letter of the alphabet 
(from 1st Jan to 31st Dec 2020)

A Long Petal Of The Sea by Isabel Allende
Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
Child Of The Universe by Katleho Mosotho
Dead Ringer by Kat Ross
Educated by Tara Westover
Farewell Mama Odessa by Emil Draitsev
Grace And Serenity by Annalisa Crawford
Head On Backwards, Chest Full Of Sand by Sandy Day
It's Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan
Josephine: Singer Dancer Soldier Spy by Eilidh McGinness
Killing Them With Kindness by Andy Paulcroft
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
Monsterland by Michael Okon
Not As Nature Intended by Rich Hardy
Our Lady Of Kibeho by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Perils And Pearls by Hulda Bachman-Neeb
Queen Of Bones by Teresa Dovalpage
Regeneration by Pat Barker
Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
The Dressing Up Box by David Constantine
Ultra Squad by Julia DeVillers and Rafael Rosado
Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh
Wasteland by Terry Tyler
X Marks The Pedwalk by Fritz Leiber
You Can Smile on Wednesdays by Zdravka Evtimova
Zeru by Phillip Vargas

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook via Smashwords

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zdravka Evtimova’s novel You Can Smile on Wednesdays focuses on day-to-day lives of three sisters Luba, Sara and Pirina who live in the small Bulgarian town of Radomir. Pirina sings songs that have no tunes, but can ease loneliness and pain; Sara has numerous boyfriends. One of them builds a church for her in which loners go to pray and soon find love. Luba reads all the time, so much that she absents herself from real world, a fact that makes her attractive in some illogical yet convincing way. We never go in the same river twice — the river does not follow the route that universe has mapped out for it; its waters flow with the songs into which the characters have transformed their lives.

The Bulgarian poet Valentin Dishev was the first to define Zdravka Evtimova’s fiction as “mythical realism”. In this concept, he includes the author’s ability to create contemporary myths: through sharp realism and subtlety, Zdravka Evtimova reveals truths whose roots go back to the past and talk to the future

You Can Smile On Wednesdays was a wonderfully surprising read for me. A contemporary fiction novel set in a deprived Bulgarian town, it depicts memorable scenes of poverty such as the Roma girl whose repurposed trouser leg skirt is so tight she can barely walk. I recognised hints of Eliza Tanzer's autobiography, The Girl From Nowhere, in Evtimova's fictional portrait of Radomir life. This contrasts with the vulgar affluence of local bully Yakob who, unfortunately correctly, believes in his right to seize anything or anyone he wants. I loved the tavern full of hopeless drunks whiling away their days out of their heads on cheap turnip brandy which, in their frequent plans and plots to get more booze from bar owner Anno, reminded me of Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Evtimova's portrayal is as deft. Her characters become increasingly vivid as our tale progresses so I could understand how the relationships between everybody went further than simply familial connections. 

The three sisters at the centre, at times, felt almost magical despite their dismally grounded lives. Evtimova's poetic repetion of specific characteristics and physical attributes helped to reinforce the sense that I could have been reading an adult fable. I connected most strongly with Luba whose existence is almost completely defined by her books, having taken too strongly to heart everyone's advice that book learning will be her escape from Radomir. Printed pages never actually allow her to leave the town, but she need not look up from them long enough to realise.

I recommend You Can Smile On Wednesdays to readers who enjoy literary fiction and authentically grounded magical realism, particularly with a central European atmosphere. There is a wonderful timelessness to this story which I really appreciated and I was quite amazed that both You Can Smile On Wednesdays and Zdravka Evtimova herself aren't widely known.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Zdravka Evtimova / Contemporary fiction / Books from Bulgaria

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