Sunday, 24 February 2013

fifteen.

Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (2013)

Sheldon Horowitz is an 82 year old Korea veteran American Jew who has come to Norway to be taken care of by his granddaughter Rhea. Rhea and her boyfriend, Lars, live in an apartment block in Tøyen and one day after they have gone out, Sheldon witnesses the murder of their Serbian neighbour and has to escape with her son.

The title caught my attention and in the beginning it was interesting to read a book set in Norway and see what a foreigner would make of our country. But the more I read, the more annoyed I got. First of all, the plot is really weak. At any point, Sheldon could have just gone to the police, and the reasons why he didn't make no sense. But my main beef with the novel is Sheldon himself, and especially Sheldon's flashbacks and imaginary friends who didn't do anything for the story. A contester for the most annoying narrator I have come across prize. And finally, all the loose ends. Why did the Kosovars want the kid? And what exactly was the link back to the Balkan wars?  

fourteen

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky 
Unfinished, published in 2004
"It’s a truism that people are complicated, multifaceted, contradictory, surprising, but it takes the advent of war or other momentous events to be able to see it. It is the most fascinating and the most dreadful of spectacles, she continued thinking, the most dreadful because it’s so real; you can never pride yourself on truly knowing the sea unless you’ve seen it both calm and in a storm. Only the person who has observed men and women at times like this, she thought, can be said to know them. And to know themselves."

Storm in June, the first part, tells the story of a handful Parisians who flee the city during the German invasion in 1940. Their escapes are chaotic and many families are split up on the road. The second part, Dolce, describes the everyday life in a small rural community after the ceasefire and the villagers are forced to have Germans living in their houses.

Irène never got to finish her book as she was deported to Auschwitz and died there in 1942. I couldn't help wondering what a great book it could have been if she had been able to finish it. In the appendixes she describes the occupation and her plans for the book. Reading the first part was as chaotic as the chaos the characters felt when they fled from Paris. There were a lot of characters and I had problems with who was who. I definitely liked the second part better, and I found that I had time to reflect on the story yet the feeling that I was reading an unfinished work never went away.

I liked Iréne's style, and I have put the Wine of Solitude on my wish list because I want to read something that was published during her life time, along with a biography about her.  I'm also questioning the need to put this unfinished work on the 1001 books you need to read before you die list as I don't think it's a masterpiece.

This was the February read in Line's 1001 books challenge.


Friday, 15 February 2013

thirteen.

Touch by Alexi Zentner (2011)

 Stephen is returning back to his home town, the remote Sawgamet in British Vancouver during the second world war.  His mother is dying, and it brings back memories from his father and grandfather. His grandfather founded Sawgamet and the story about how he survived the first winter alone in the woods, is one of the many strange stories that Stephen has heard through the years.

His father died when Stephen was 10, trying to save his sister who went through the ice on the river. At the same time, his grandfather, Jeannot, returned after being absent since his wife died when Stephen's dad was a baby. His grandfather tells him that he has come back to wake his wife from the dead.

The story has haunted me for the couple of days since I read it. I simply fell in love with its prose and the story is magical and sad. I really enjoy these stories where the nature plays an important role. And the mythical creatures were haunting, but luckily they didn't give me nightmares. Still I wouldn't want to meet a qallupiluit out in the woods, but I might be able to tackle a mahaha. 

Strange and beautiful with a mesmerising cover. Read it!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

twelve.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1854)

 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,it was the season of light,it was the season of darkness,it was the spring of hope,it was the winter of despair.” 

After spending many years in the Bastille, and many years living isolated and making shoes, Mr Manette is reunited with his unknown daughter, Lucie, who has been living in London. Mr Manette who used to be a doctor is mentally ill, and Lucie tries her best to get him back on his feet again. On their way back to England, they meet a young French man, Charles Darnay, who ends up charged for high treason, but is acquitted and then falls in love with Lucie. But the little happy family is soon in danger thanks to their past and the French Revolution.

My 4th Dickens and still I struggle. I just get lost in all the words and then don't get the action at all. I think I finally got it around halfway through. But that doesn't mean that the book is bad or boring. I really enjoyed it despite not getting the whole story straight with all the names, spies and counter-spies. One of the main reasons for this is that it is set in the midst of the French Revolution and you get thrown right in to it. I also admired the way Ms Pross kicked arse at the end. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

eleven.

Dead Water by Ann Cleeves (2013)

 Shetland's Procurator Fiscal, Rhona Laing finds a dead journalist in the yoal her rowing team uses. The journalist has been hit in the head, but the yoal is clearly not the crime scene. Why was the journalist killed and is it a coincidence that he was put in the yoal?

Jimmy Perez is still, six months later, on sick leave after his fiancée was murdered and is just occasionally in the office, so Sandy Wilson is in charge. He, and the new SIO from Edinburgh, Willow Reeves, want him to join in on the case, but Jimmy is reluctant. But as he sees the investigation getting no where, he starts doing research on his own which pisses off the SIO. But there are few evidences to go by, so will the case ever be solved?

It was nice to revisit Shetland and getting to meet Jimmy Perez again, although the last book could have been the final one. I'm not a fan of endless crime series, so I was sceptical to this at first, but then I just had to know if Jimmy still was there, so I pre-ordered to my Kindle once I found out it was due.

In the beginning Jimmy's personal and emotional life played their roles in the story, but as the story progressed, the focus shifted more to the case and I wish the personal level would be deeper. I also felt that the end was rushed, and it was hard to get a clear picture. But I really enjoyed the character of Willow Reeves, and I hope that she will continue to show up as I assume this won't be the final book about Shetland. I also love how much Shetland itself is a big character. And as always, I never guessed the murderer.  

Friday, 1 February 2013

ten.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)

Lennie and George are travelling around California, looking for work at farms. Lennie isn't quite right in the head, and George promised that he would look after him after Lennie's aunt died. Lennie's favourite thing is to hear George talking about the small farm they're going to have once they have worked hard and saved up enough money. Lennie has a particular soft spot for everything beautiful and things that are nice to touch, like puppies, mice and dresses, which has got him in trouble before.

When they are approaching the new farm, George orders Lennie to not speak so there won't be any trouble. The farmer is suspicious, but he gives them a chance when George ensures him that Lennie might be dumb, but he is excellent at following orders. The trouble is that the farmer's son disliked the big dumb Lennie and he tries his best to make sure that Lennie messes it up.

Of Mice and Men is a short story, but it is sure one that takes time to forget. It has the same setting as the Grapes of Wrath, but this has a lot of humour between the lines, although it deals with serious topics like mental health, racism and poverty. And the end is really mindblowing.

The most intriguing thing I learnt from Wikipedia regarding this book: The character of Lennie Small is used as the standard for legal mental retardation for executing a prisoner in Texas. If a person appears smarter than Lennie Small in an interview then he may be executed. If he does not, then he cannot understand his crime(s).