Sunday, 20 April 2014

twenty.

Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc (2012)

 An ancient Sami drum is stolen from a gallery in Kautokeino and a reindeer herder is found murdered out on the vidde. And with a UN conference on indigenous peoples coming up, the drum needs to be found as fast as possible. Kenneth Nango and Nina Nansen from the reindeer police are asked to help out on the cases. 

Kenneth, a local Sami, who has been in the police for decades has admirers and enemies, even within the police. He knows most of the people in Kautokeino. Nina Nansen has just started working in the reindeer police and as she is from the south of Norway, she is not used to the conditions and cultures of the north. And she is especially fascinated by the sun coming back on the horizon.

As the plot thickens, a Frenchman with a taste for young girls and metals, makes his presence known in Kautokeino. It also seems that corrupt politicians and police are involved in the case. And then there is an old map indicating a gold mine.

It is always interesting to read books about Norway written by foreign authors. Olivier Truc is a French journalist who has worked mainly in Sweden and he definitely has a lot of knowledge about the Northern Scandinavia. The atmosphere of Kautokeino is spot on at times, and I especially think he explained the political climate well.  As this is fiction, some things are made up, such as the transnational structure of the reindeer police, but I think that is necessary for the story. I found the beginning of the book slow, probably because of too much information which didn't really fit in with the story. But as the story progressed, the information became more integrated. The end came too fast and I was confused when there were no pages left on the Kindle. I would really like to know how Kenneth and Nina reacted to what had happened.

A good read which made me homesick for the Arctic and longing for snow and darkness while being in sunny Edinburgh. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

nineteen.

the Beggar and the Hare by Tuomas Kyrö (2011)

 In order to earn easy money and buy his son a pair of football boots, Vatanescu from Romania,  signs a contract with a Russian human trafficker, Yegor Kugar, who quickly puts him on the streets of Helsinki as a beggar. Vatanescu is crafty and discovers that a lot of edible food is thrown into dumpsters and is feasting on the food when Yegor discovers it. Yegor is furious and sacks Vatanescu, but Vatanescu fights back and runs away with a lot of money.

And then Vatanescu saves the rabbit from a group of angry men. Together they travel through Finland, wherever their luck takes them.

The story is entertaining and I really felt sorry for Vatanescu and really hoped that he finally could buy those football shoes for his son. And it was also interesting to read the narrative of Yegor. It became disappointing towards the end, and I think the part about the political party was a bit too much over the top. But I forgave everything when I came to the last page. Perfect ending.

I stumbled upon this book at Waterstones in Edinburgh and it was the perfect companion to three meals and many glasses of wine. The Beggar and the Hare is a modern rewrite of the Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna, where Vatanen injures a hare and then they go into the Finnish wilderness together. I read that book six years ago while living in Finland and I really enjoyed it. Read it before reading this.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

eighteen.

the Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (1984)

 Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That's my score to date. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.” 

 Francis and his father are the only residents on a small Scottish island. Francis' father never registered him as a new born, so he doesn't officially exist and has therefore only been home schooled. He spends his days running around the island, blowing up his dams and killing animals. His older brother, Eric, who has spent the last years in jail for killing dogs and scaring children, has escaped and is on his way home, which worries Francis. In addition to have killed three young kids, Francis has many other secrets. The Wasp Factory is a huge machine which gives him the answers in the times of need, and he uses this machine to figure out what to do about Eric. 

I think the Cauldhame family just won the award for creepiest family ever. Two brothers, where one kills dogs and the other children with a mad scientist as a father. I haven't come across any worse in my time of reading. And the funniest thing is that despite all the awful stuff Francis does, I manage to feel sorry for him. Because after all, he is a product of his father. 

The book is both wonderful and awful at the same time. There was one scene, involving the brain of child, that made me sick to the stomach because it was so easy to picture the scene. It is definitely a book you should read if you can stomach it. And Iain Banks is making his way onto my favourite author list, such a shame that it happens after his death.  

Monday, 7 April 2014

seventeen.

Dirty Havana Trilogy by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (1998)

 Pedro Juan is content as long as he has some money, rum and a woman. Rum and women are easy to find, money is harder as Cuba in the 90s is a rough place. Pedro Juan goes from woman to woman, job to job and also spends some time in jail. The book is more like a collection of many short stories, some with Pedro Juan as the main character and some are stories about others.

I'm guessing this isn't the Cuba that tourists get to explore. It is the life within those crumbled buildings that they are taking pictures of. The life of whores, the unemployed, the crazies and poorest of the poor. It's about the ups and downs and those random life altering events. And of course sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

Dirty is definitely the right word for this book. Not only because of the sexual content, but also because of the conditions Pedro Juan finds himself living and working in. A work that manages to combine both sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and state of the nation is easily one of my instant favourites. The genre is apparently called dirty realism and Charles Bukowski was of course the king of it. 
Read it for the social commentary, or the sex, or both. 

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