Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, published by Little, Brown Books / Orion in 2012.
Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.
Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal. (Goodreads)
My rating: 5/5
I’ve read somewhere that translators are the most attentive readers. Judging by the state of some of the translations out there, I wouldn’t say this is a general rule, but I usually read a book at least five times by the time I’m finished with the final copy-editing of the translation.
That said, there are some books I’ve translated that I still feel quite dispassionate about, and some I downright dislike. But I can finally say that I’ve found one I’m truly happy to have worked on: Ketchup Clouds. (I also loved translating Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, but more about that in another post.) It was, mind you, the most difficult one I’ve ever done – mostly because of the fact that Ms. Pitcher is very fond of word play and it’s damn hard to translate. But I had great fun searching for just the perfect turn of phrase. I fervently hope Slovenian readers will approve!
Even when reading books just for pleasure, there asre some that leave you cool and some that get to you – and Ketchup Clouds snuck into some hidden space inside of me and made itself comfortable. It’s the kind of book that does this stealthily. It begins slowly, dropping hints here and there and you don’t even notice the threads it’s binding you with.
Zoe is one of the most honest, complex characters I’ve read about lately. She writes anonymous letters to a Mr. Stuart Harris, a death row prisoner in Texas, because she has to tell her secret story to someone and feels a connection with this criminal she’s never even seen. I was afraid, going in, that the story would be depressing – there’s this sense of doom hanging over everything – but it wasn’t, luckily.
I did cry, as I often do, while translating the ending. I cried so hard I couldn’t see the computer screen anymore and had to take a break to sob for a bit, but I suspect that had something to do with being three months pregnant at the time and riding an emotional roller-coster every. single. day.
As I said – the story truly isn’t depressing and considering all the ways the ending could have gone, I have to say that the author nailed it. Others agree, apparently, as she’s recently won an Edgar Award in the Young Adult category, and the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize before that.
I even like the cover! All three of them, in fact: