Oh, Alberta.

the Alberta Trilogy by Cora Sandel
(Alberta and Jacob 1926, Alberta and Freedom 1931 and Alberta Alone 1939)
 
“The truth was Alberta only knew what she did not want. She had no idea what she did want. And not knowing brought unrest and a giddy sensation under her heart. She existed like a negative of herself, and this flaw was added to all the others. To get away, out into the world! Beyond this all details were blurred. She imagined somewhere open, free, bathed in sunshine. And a throng of people, none of them her relatives, none of whom could criticize her appearance and character, and to whom she was not responsible for being other than herself.” 
 Alberta is a young woman living in Northern Norway with her brother, Jacob, and their parents. Alberta is unable to continue her education, and spends her days at home helping out, while her friends have either moved south or are busy getting hitched. She is constantly cold, both physically and emotionally.

In the second book, we find Alberte a few years later in Paris, where she sometimes works as a model for painters. She lives in the cheapest hotels and is constantly broke. She hangs with a crowd of international artists and their muses. She has changed a lot from the one she used to be in Norway, and she is independent and hates running into fellow countrymen, as she is worried about what they’d say behind her back. I’m not going to say anything about the third book, because then I’ll spoil the essentials of the second book. But it is set a few years later, just after World War I. 

Alberta definitely found a special place in my heart. She reminded me a lot of my younger self, especially in her insecurity and constant coldness. And the whole part about finding yourself. Cora Sandel also writes well, and I was surprised that there weren’t more quotes on Goodreads. I’d definitely have written some there myself if I had read it in English. I have a feeling that this book was controversial when it was published, and especially the second book where there are sex and even an abortion. I know that during World War II, the German regime in Norway banned the third book because they believed it to be anti-German.

I liked the second book best of all, and I believe that it should be on the 1001 books you should read list instead of Alberta and Jacob. And I would have loved to be in Paris in the that time period myself. Alberta and Jacob was April’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading circle, and although I read it then, I wanted to read the whole trilogy before writing about it.

And oh, does anyone know why the names have been changed from the Norwegian version (Alberte, Jakob) to the English one (Alberta, Jacob)? I have only seen that in children’s books before. 

forty-eight.

Jordmora by Katja Kettu (2011)
(Kätilö)

Villøye is the midwife in Petsamo during World War II, and the place is crawling with German soldiers. Villøye falls in love with one of the soldiers, Johannes, and although he has got another girl pregnant, she follows him to a POW Camp with Soviet prisoners where she becomes a nurse. But the war is at its turning point, and Villøye and Johannes have to flee and they end up in an isolated hut in a remote Norwegian fjord.
Ohmygodthisbook! It has everything and so much more. It gives an excellent portrait of the complex Barents region, and the terrible war which devastated the area. It is a gruesome story, and really shows how people deal with the worst situations. And the choices Villøye makes have terrible consequences.

I really liked the language in the book, and the way it’s a mix of Finnish, Russian and Sami words in the translation. And it’s always interesting to read about the place where you hail from. I really regret that I gave up on learning Finnish because I’m really curious how this is in its original language. The translator, Turid Farbrergd, did a hell of a job and I have learnt so many new words. I also got a better picture of what it was like during the war, and I definitely need to read more about the war in the Barents region.

I hope it will be translated into English soon. If you get a chance, read it! It is definitely the best book I have read this year and on the list of my favourites and I already need to read it again. And Katja Kettu is an author I will definitely read more of. 

Ps: I think Villøye might be the horniest woman I have come across so far in literature, and I love it!

thirty-three.

the Ritual by Adam Nevill (2011)

“And on the second day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition.”

Four English men in their late 30s, Luke, Hutch, Dom and Phil, are trekking in a remote area of Swedish Lapland. They decide to take a short-cut because of the bad condition two of the men are in. Then they find a large animal slaughtered in the worst way and hung high up in a tree. Not long after they come to an old abandoned building where they decide to spend the night. They quickly realise that the building has been used for some kind of ancient worship.

When Luke wakes up the next day after a very strange dream, he discovers that his friends have all been sleepwalking and all of them are in a state of shock. But this is just the beginning of the horror that only one of them will survive.

The beginning of the book didn’t impress me, but that was mainly because of horrible writing style. But it definitely gets better throughout the book. I really liked the twist when the story was most exciting, and I was also relieved because I couldn’t take one more minute of terror. This book would be perfect for the big screen. I will save Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill for the next time I want to be frightened again. But that won’t be any time in the near future as I’m sure I have enough nightmare material for a year now.

I will end this with two things from the second part of the book which was my favourite:

1. A Norwegian black metal band.

2. “Hearts torn out for the sun God in Mexico. Wretches ritually strangled and buried with their masters in ancient Britain. Simple people accused of witchcraft, pressed under stones and set alight in pyres of dry kindling. Commuters gassed in the Tokyo subway. Passengers flown through the side of buildings in jets full of fuel.
If only we could all stand up. All of us who have died unjustly for the Gods of the insane. There would be so many of us”

thirty-one.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

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A ship rescues a man drifting on ice in the Arctic. The captain writes home to his sister to tell her the strange tale of the man named Frankenstein. Frankenstein claims that he gave life to a horrible manlike monster who killed several of his family members because he refused to make a mate to the monster.
I have spent my whole life believing that the monster was named Frankenstein and now I know the truth. It took me forever to read the book, probably because I didn’t find the narrative of Frankenstein interesting at all until the first murder happened. And I finally started to enjoy the story when the monster started to speak. His story was far more interesting than Frankenstein’s, although I must question the way he learnt to read and write without being discovered, considering his size and all. Frankenstein certainly didn’t get any sympathy from me, but neither did the monster.
I haven’t seen any film adaptions of Frankenstein yet, and I doubt I will ever dare to do it on my own either as I imagine them being scarier than the book.

twenty-seven

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (1992)

Miss Smilla is half Danish, half Inuit and a glaciologist. When a Inuit child fell from the roof from the building where she lives, she refuses to believe that it was an accident. Her investigation leads to a dangerous voyage to the Greenlandic ice. What discoveries will she make?

This book is more than just a crime fiction. It is an account on the relation between Copenhagen and Greenland and how Inuits are struggling in the big city. After her mother died, Smilla was sent from her community to live with her estranged Danish father in Copenhagen. It also teaches you a lot about ice and snow. The dead boy’s mother is an alcoholic who often did not feed him. Smilla reminded me a lot of Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larsson), but she is definitely more kick-ass.

I definitely picked the wrong season for reading this book. It should be read in those dark December and January months when the snow silences everything.

twenty, twenty-one.

White Fang (1903) and the Call of the Wild (1906) by Jack London

One book, two novels. White Fang is follows a wolf pup of some dog heritage from he is born in the wild and tamed by men. While the Call of the Wild is about a dog being kidnapped from his home in California, brought into the Canadian Arctic and turns his back to men in favour of wolves. White Fang is a detailed description of how the nature works and how interactions between animals, and also between men and animals can shape the animals. The morale is if you treat someone badly, they will be bad and if you treat someone well, they will be good.

Having read the stories and seen the films as a kid, I was surprised how brutal the stories actually are. Most of White Fang is a bloody fight after one another with always someone being slashed in the end. While the Call of the Wild went in the opposite direction, from good to violent. I liked how the stories were narrated by the animals themselves, rather from a human perspective. Thanks to the amazing description of the Arctic, I’m already missing home after one day in the south.

twelve.

Sameland by Magne Hovden (2010)

When I opened the present that contained this book, I laughed so hard. The cover. The fact that this book is about my home town. The perfect present.

Two guys are planning to start a Sami adventure park, the ultimate tourist scam. They have to get hold on some reindeer, a shaman and make an authentic Sami setting without spending much money on it. Quite an adventure getting it all together.

What I really loved in this book was the characters. I was snickering while trying to figure out who was the inspiration. The story was good and fun in the beginning, but then it became too much for me. I read somewhere that this might turn into a movie and I hope so because I think it will make a great flick.