So at least a year ago, and maybe even more (I am totally embarrassed about that!) my Dutch teacher lent me her copy of this book, in Dutch. I dragged my feet about reading it because I read really slowly in Dutch, and it seemed like it would be hard and take a lot of time. Then I had an idea - I could buy the same book in English, and I could alternate my reading - first reading each chapter in Dutch, and then reading it again in English. This ended up working really well, but I still put both books off and didn't get very far in the reading until this challenge.
I am at a weird, middle level of Dutch where I can always get the main point when I read in Dutch, but the details elude me. It's like watching a silent, black and white film on fast-forward and then watching a later remake, with color and sound, played at the proper speed. You can get the gist of what's going on from the former, but the latter fills in all the finer details. So it took me quite a while - believe it or not, I have been working on it for most of the summer! - but I finally managed to finish (and yes, it's the last day of the challenge; what can I say!).
I found this book to be a beautiful character study. I did find the main characters frustrating, but I always felt sympathetic toward them. There's a somber feeling throughout the book, and it made me feel sad a lot of the time, but not entirely hopeless.
One odd thing about reading the same book but in two different languages is noticing small changes made by the translators. This book was originally published in Italian, so both the Dutch and English versions that I read are translations of that original. When I found small differences, I wondered what the original wording had been in Italian, and the reason for the change - a cultural difference? A word preference on the translator's part? It was something interesting to note while I was reading.
I'm really sad that this challenge is over for 2014! I didn't read nearly as much as I was hoping to read for it, but I have more books on hand for next year - and knowing it's coming up, I can plan my time better to accommodate more books. In fact, I already have a plan for some of it :) So many thanks to Ekaterina, for helping me finish the Dutch version of this book so I can return it to its rightful owner!