VENERA STOJAN, ŠKATULE I BATULE (Book review and recommendation)

 Hello! In this post, I'll take you back to Split city to share a book review and an outfit post. I'll review a book that made be both cry and laugh. You could say I believe in fate. Never has fate seemed more obvious to me than when it comes to books. So many times in my life has a book arrived at the right time! Every time that happened, I would wonder: 'What are the odds of that?'

 There's a whole story behind how I bought this  book, and I will share a more detailed account soon. Until then, I'll give you a short version. I googled events in Split city and saw there was a promotion at Split city library.

I have to say this was the best book promotion I have ever attended for a number of reasons. I'll get back to them as I don't have time to go in detail right now. I'm literally typing this on my cellphone, sitting in a café in Split city.

What kind of novel is this? Written in Dalmatian dialect, an autobiographical novel by Croatian author Venera Stojan is a journey in her youth and adolescence. It starts bleak, with Venera confronting her breast cancer diagnosis. However, soon it turns positive as he writes about her childhood on one Croatian island. Moreover, she writes about her first visit to Split that was to become her home. Venera wrote this book from her heart and it realls shows. All I can say right now is that I really recommend her novel.

These photographs were taken on a sunny May day in Split city, Croatia. This is Žnanj beach. 

Now, a photograph in front of Kalafatić cafe located on Zenta marine. You can see me holding the book I recommended!

The outfit I'm wearing is a great example of shopping my closet. Literally, nothing is new. I have had all these clothing items for a long time. 

Back to Žnjan beach.


Melem, Pavao Pavličić

Melem, is a lovely novel by Pavao Pavlichich. This Croatian writer has (so far) published 95 books (most of them are novels), so he must be doing something right when it comes to writing. His works have been translated to German, French, Czech,  Slovakian, Slovenian, Rumanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Danish language. Pavao, for me, is one of those authors whose works you're certain you will like even before you start reading them. I always end up liking his novels. Nevertheless, I must admit that his novels don't move me as deeply as works by some other Croatian writers. That being said, I do admire his proficiency as a writer and his writing imagination. His writing style is always fairly simple, but it suits him and I honestly don’t mind it at all. I don't see his minimalistic writing style as a downside, especially in his type of crime novels.  Pavao reminds me of Hemingway in some ways. His protagonists, for example, are always men. His plots are great and his stories is always interesting to read. Still, I wish he would surprise me at least once and attempt something more ambitious. I liked this novel and I enjoyed reading it, but it made me wonder if the author is sticking to 'what works' a bit too much.  I really think he ought to try to branch out a bit, create a novel with a bit more complexity, but that's just my opinion. The protagonist of this novel is Srećko (his name translates as Lucky) a guy working in a retirement home. The opening of the novel is really funny. Frustrated with his life, this guy decided to make a run for it. So, in a spur of the moment thing, he steals a taxi parked in front of the retirement home. The plot really starts when our young man wakes up in a hospital. You can read my full review here.

In this post, you can find my  book review for The City In a Mirror, an autobiographical novel by Mirko Kovač.

I don’t know if I’ve ever read a more magical, tender, layered, and melancholy autobiography. I have to admit that for me in the past, reading Kovač's works was a bit of a struggle. I always appreciated his talent, but I struggled with reading his works.  I can even say that I needed to invest effort to read, all the time made aware that I was trying to understand a world unfamiliar to me. The city in a Mirror, on the contrary, I read without a pause, in one breath. This autobiographical work is the first book by Kovač that I have completely fallen in love with. While reading I felt like I was listening to an old family friend (someone I have known all my life)  and who is now revealing some important, almost mystical truths to me. The life lessons aren't given easily, so the narrator does not teach them lightly,  rather they are mixed with jokes. sometimes black-humored ones, filled with a dose of pessimism and bitterness.

This novel is a mature and melancholic work in which the boundaries between dream and reality, between essay and autobiography, between objectivity and subjectivity, between family chronicle and personal diary are erased. The writer is often very critical of himself and his family, as well as the countries and places where he lived, grew up and worked. It can be said that there is a lot of bitterness in his writing, but there is really no malice. No, there really is no malice in this book, although there is a lot of strangeness and sometimes coldness. Kovač does not write as someone who wants to humiliate someone with his descriptions but as someone who has tasted the truth, and the truth is often bitter.

Gavran simply can't do no wrong. How We Broke Our Legs is one of the funniest books I've read so far. I passed this novel to to my husband, who  found it very funny as well. We both enjoyed this book, so I can (for once) give you a double recommendation. Now, back to the subject of this book. It is written from a point of view of a child so the language is for most part very simple. There are two child narrators in this one. The first narrator is actually the father of the second narrator so obviously this novel covers two  different time periods. The first period covered is the seventies and the second is the nineties. The story told takes place in Croatia, with the first part of the novel set in  Slavonia (a region in Croatia) and the second part in Zagreb (Croatia's capital). A bit of background information that might also clarify some things- during the sixties Croatia was a socialistic republic of Croatia and as such a part of Yugoslavia, while during the nineties Croatia became an independent republic and is now a part of European Union. As I already said, the novel is told from a child's perspective so I was amazed how Gavran managed to reflect so well on the political and social events of the time. For example, the kid from the younger generation gets in trouble for mentioning innocent things (such as parents making fun of the communist regime) in a school essay. This book is focused on the characters and events of one family, but it can also be read as a social commentary. Great novel indeed. To summarize,  How We Broke Our Legs is a wonderful family saga that recounts the story of a family that has a funny tradition. Every man in the family brakes his legs when he falls in love with the girl he is going to marry. It all starts with grandfather Stjepan who comes from Herzegovina to Slavonia to work in  the fields. There Stephan (Stjepan) falls in love with the girl and upon her invitations spends the night in her room. The father of the girl catches them and Stjepan breaks his leg in an attempt to run away. The father of the bride does two things.  Firstly, the father curses Stjepan with a peculiar curse - may all the men in his family from now on break their legs for women. Secondly, the father of the girl insists that Stjepan marries his daughter which Stjepan is happy to do (maybe because he was in love with her but perhaps also because he didn't mind getting married to a girl who is well off). All is well that ends well, right? What about the curse? The curse remains and it results in many funny situations. In reality, the curse is not so bad because it marks something positive, it is a clear sign that a man is that the family member in question has found the love of his life and is about to get married. 

This novel enchanted me. What kind of novel is it? I would describe it as a profound philosophical and autobiographical novel, written in a post-modernist style. Its author is a well-known Croatian University professor who has written numerous academic works, papers and books on the subject of literature. This unique book is skillfully, beautifully and eloquently written. There are several leitmotifs that are masterfully explored, becoming an essential part of the narrative, for example the subject of memory.
Who is Tara? Tara is neither she or he. Tara is the divine mercy, an echo of Buddha perfection, calling out to all beings, trying to lead them towards a path of salvation. Tara is not a goddess, even if sometimes she is revered in that way. Tara is, simply said, the embodiment of mercy. Very early in the narrative, we’re introduced to Tara concept by our narrator, a professor from Sarajevo,  who is (in the novel) currently teaching at an University in South Korea. The protagonist/narrator of the novel, in many ways, the author himself, searches for comfort in this Tara concept (taken from Buddhism) while trying to write a novel that would allow him to come to terms with his traumatic memories.


This is a novel by Ankica Topić, a Croatian author.  If I'm not mistaken this was my first read from this writer.  Ankica Topić is from Makarska, so from the same region in Croatia as yours truly (Dalmatia). I'm mentioning the region because it is relevant to understand the novel's humour.  As in most other European countries, in Croatia you will find cultural and linguistic differences between regions, something that is often used for comic effects in books, TV shows and movies. In this particular novel, the author often contrasts Croats from the South with those from the capital (that is continental Croatia). Damen kapric is a wonderfully funny novel that starts of as a family comedy with elements of romance, but soon turns darker and evolves into a mystery of some kind. An interesting novel for sure. I'm not sure is an English translation available yet. 


In this post I reviewed a novel Marina ili o biografiji (Marina or About Biography) by Croatian writer Irena Vrkljan.  Published in 1985, this lyrical novel is a poetical blend of biographical and autobiographic writing. This dual exploration of women's psyche and life is Vrljan's signature writing style. While writing about these two remarkably talented women with sad fates, Irena writes about her private sorrows as well. Irena examines the inner lives of Russian poetess Marina Tsvetaeva and Croatian actress Dora Novak. You could say that Irena seeks to write a biography of their souls, or at least catch a glimpse of it. 

Three times the charm. Unless I'm mistaken, this was my third reading of this poetic novel.   That doesn't mean there won't be a fourth reading, just that this third reading felt special. Didn't I say this was going to be a year of rereading for me? Rereading Marina or About Biography was an emotional experience for me. Irena's sentences really resonated with me on a deeper level this time. What is so special about this novel? What is it that makes me want to reread it again and again? To start with, it has something to do with how poetical and layered the writing is. Secondly, I'm drawn to painful  honesty of this book. Thirdly, I'm equally drawn to all the women artists it explores. Finally, it simply is an amazing novel. 

This novel was published the year I was born in but it feels timeless. Vrkljan died a few years ago. I'm always shocked when a writer dies, even if I know that it is a fate that awaits us all. Perhaps as a literature lover I feel the writers might or should be immortal.  Perhaps only a literature lover can understand how much a loss of a writer can hurt.


 In this post, I reviewed People Who Planted Trees (Ljudi koji su sadili drveće), a novel by Croatian writer Josip Mlakić. Published in 2010, this novel focuses on a group of war veterans and friends living in an unnamed city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The city is left unnamed so that it can represent any city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the general atmosphere of this novel is bleak and depressive, the book ends on a more hopeful note.

Josip Mlakić is a contemporary Croatian writer (1964) from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Known mostly for his antiwar prose, this prolific writer has won a number of local literary awards.  He also writes screenplays. This was my second novel by this writer, the first one being his novel The Living and the Dead (Živi i mrtvi). I can draw some parallels between these two novels, mostly in the antiwar themes they explore. However, there are also some differences. The Living and the Dead has fantastic elements, while this novel doesn't. This book is very realistic in tone and style. 


This book is actually a collection of essays written by Croatian writer Ivan Aralica. I picked up this book by chance and I'm happy I did. I always find good book deals at Mostar annual fair. Holding a book in my hand is still a pleasure for me and it is a pleasure I'm not ready to part with. Although I do read ebooks as well, this kind of reading is my favourite kind. I'm very reasonable when it comes to purchasing just about anything but  books are my great weakness. I always find excuses for buying new ones.  Moreover, I think it is important to support writers by buying their books.  

Now, I will say a few words about this book. It shed a new light on this writer, whom prior to reading this book, I have known only as a novelist. This book consists of two parts. The first part of this book consists of political essays and the second part consists of  writer's comments on his own literary work. It is well written and it is very interesting. I enjoyed reading it, so I do recommend it. I'm pretty sure it hasn't been translated to English (and other languages), but I'm sure some of his novels were, so if you happen to see his name in your local library, don't forget to take the book and thank me later. 


Another book that I absolutely loved was Proklete Hrvatice- od Cvijete Zutorić do Ene Begović by Milana Runjić Vuković (here you can read my review for one of her other books)This book focuses on lives of several notable Croatian women. I found it absolutely fascinating and I enjoyed the writing style very much. The author wrote about these women from a more personal point of view, often wondering what they must have felt like in different stages of their life and I quite liked that. 

In this post, I reviewed a novel titled Judita (Judith), written by Croatian author Miro Gavran. I read this novel some time ago, but I will not forget it any time soon. I was extremely impressed with the author's original take on Judith's story that combined with his ability to transform us back in time made for a truly memorable read. I will not be able to reveal exactly what makes this novel so original  in terms of plot (in order to avoid spoilers). However, I'll share a detailed review that will hopefully give you a clear idea about what kind of book it is. 

Before proceeding with my review, it is worth mentioning that Judith (the biblical character) has had a great importance for Croatian literature. In the sixteenth century Marko Marulić, also known as the father of Croatian literature, wrote an epic poem with Judith as a protagonist. Judith is a protagonist Croatian people have identified strongly with (possibly because there were actual historical Croatian women who killed the invading warlords,  but more about that some other time). Another thing worth noting is that Judith (Judita) is one of the novels in Miro Gavran biblical circle. I've mentioned some of the other Gavran's biblical novels on my blog, but I don't think I reviewed them yet. Fun fact: I actually met Miro Gavran in 2019 when he was on a tour in Mostar and he signed a copy of his book (The Selected Comedies) for me on that occasion. He even drew a little raven (his last name Gavran means raven in Croatian) for me. 


In Croatian literature, this female character from the Bible  has a special dimension and importance. The name that comes to our minds is Marko Marulić, also known as the father of Croatian literature. It is not easy to tell her story again, to turn Judith into the main character of a modern novel, but Gavran succeeded in that. It takes courage to tackle this character. What Gavran's Judith like as a character? Judith is a protagonist that as a  character grows before our eyes, and becomes extremely complex and multi-layered by  the end of the novel. From the very beginning, Judith addresses us with her words, tells her life story to us (the readers). Judith says it is because she has a need to share it with us, and at the same time, as we will learn, share her great pain and tragedy.


Gavran, through Judith's own words, skillfully describes her childhood and her maidenhood. Th author paints us a picture of a deeply moral person who is both moral and restricted in her understanding of morals. At some level Judith does not understand the cruelty and cruelty of the society in which she lives, that is, she feels injustice, but she has no words, imagination or understanding to interpret cruelty as such and understand what it is all about. I found that quite realistic. Judith knows no other society than her own, she has never witnessed any world other than the one in which she lived. Therefore, Judith does not object to stoning (lapidation) when she sees it, in fact she considers it something normal, even when she cannot lift the stone herself and is clearly unable to participate in such cruelty. Judith believes in the law and the prophets, and does not see a world beyond the law, at least not a world that would make any sense. For Judith, stoning is a part of her world and she does not question it, just as she does not question other laws, not because she is not sensitive or intelligent, but because, like all of us, she is deeply conditioned by her upbringing and social origins. It is the source of her tragedy. We are all more biologically and culturally programmed than we like to admit, and even deeply moral people often don’t see how callous and meaningless social morality can be, because morality is perhaps  just another word for deep personal responsibility.

Thank you for reading!


  1. I'm always happy when you show photos of the sea. Beautiful outfit, the colors suit you well.
    happy weekend

    1. I love to be by the sea. I'm always happy when I'm by the sea.:)

  2. Such an inspiring book! Love those photos of you by the sea. Such a splendid attire. I love the cap too. Thanks very much for this wonderful post!

  3. Happy to see you are in Split City. Such a great outfit..especially against the sea and all the outdoor photos. Thanks for the wonderful review too. Wishing you lots of sweet adventures!

  4. Gracias por la reseña Tomó nota. Tu atuendo es genial. Te mando un beso.

  5. That sounds like a truly wonderful book, Ivana! I love books which make me both laugh and cry.
    Your outfit is gorgeous, and I love how the mustard polo neck lights up against the deep blue of the sea! xxx

  6. I have to admit that I have never heard about this writer and this book but it sounds quite interesting . I like so much your skirt so fashionable <3

  7. These posts leave me smiling. Thank you. You look stunning in that look.

    1. Thank you, that's such a sweet compliment.

  8. Sembra un bel libro! L'ideale per inaugurare la bella stagione!
    Bellissime foto e tu sempre super carina!

  9. Gorgeous photos, musard looks so good on you! x


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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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