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… skulle være overskriften på et innlegg som jeg skulle publisere tidlig i januar. Det skulle handle om Øst for Eden (John Steinbeck, 1952), somer den beste boka jeg har lest på lenge, ja, kanskje til og med noensinne. Men jeg strevde med ordene og plutselig hadde det gått et halvt år. Kanskje det er umulig å beskrive Øst for Eden? Kort fortalt handler den om to familier, Hamilton og Trask i Salinas og foregår over flere generasjoner. Bakpå står det at de presterer å etterligne både Adam og Eva pluss Kain og Abel. Cathy er den ondeste/beste karakteren jeg har møtt – herregud for et kvinnfolk! Jeg vet at dette er en bok jeg kommer til å lese flere ganger siden jeg tviler på at man får med seg alle nyansene den ene gangen. Men tviler på at det blir den første boka jeg leser hvert år.

Siden januar har jeg lest mye, men ikke nok til at jeg er ajour med Goodreads målet mitt med 50 bøker. Er fortsatt to bak skjema. Heldigvis er det forsatt nesten ei måned igjen av sommerferien, og akkurat nå leser jeg Stillitsen av Donna Tartt (2013) for harde livet for å bli ferdig med den før flyet går til Denver på tirsdag. Ikke at det er noe vanskelig, siden boka er høyst drivende. Vedder også på at jeg kommer til å grine på et eller annet tidspunkt. Den feier seg også inn i rekken av bøker lest i sommer som handler om staselige eiendommer og rare familier.

Det be24826361gynte med at jeg leste Skjønnhet er et sår av Eka Kurniawan (2002). Historien begynner med en prostituert som står opp fra grava. Hun har levd et innholdsrikt liv, blant annet startet hennes karriere som gledespike for japanske soldater under den andre verdenskrig. Romanen inneholder mye og var særdeles underholdende. Men jeg tror jeg gjorde den store feilen og leste de siste to hundre sidene i et jafs, noe som gjorde at jeg ble lei og utålmodig. Boka hadde nok fortjent noe bedre konsentrasjon enn det jeg hadde å gi.

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Den andre boka som virkelig tok meg med storm dette året er Rebecca av Daphne du Maurier (1938). Den atmosfæren som grep tak i meg fra første setning er vanskelig å beskrive, men jeg levde meg virkelig inn i historien. Jeg ble også overrasket over hvor uventet handlingen ble, jeg hadde forventet meg litt gufs. Men at det skulle bli en kriminalroman var uventet. Jeg skal få somlet meg til å se filmversjonen av Hitchcock før eller senere. Dette er en bok jeg skulle ønske jeg leste i min ungdomstid, men heldigvis var det aldri for sent. Anbefales på det varmeste!

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Tredje boka i staselige eiendommer og rare familier var Åpne sår av Gillian Flynn (2006). Den handler om en journalist som må tilbake til hjembyen for å skrive om mord på to småjenter. Temmelig makaber bok, men hjelp så det gikk unna. Likte denne mye bedre enn Gone Girl, selv om den er lite realistisk. En miniserie er tilgjengelig på HBO Nordic – jeg skal se den når høstmørket setter inn.

 

 

Ellers bør Molde/Amerika-kvartetten til Edvard Hoem få hederlig omtale. De gikk ned på strak arm. Jeg har også klart å få en sakprosa under beltet, nemlig Min europeiske familie av Karin Bojs (2015). Interessant hvis du er interessert i slektsforskning, historie og arkeologi. Jeg leste den mens jeg ventet på DNA-resultatet og den hjalp veldig til å få plass hvor man stammer fra (som heldigvis ikke var særlig overraskende).  Er også overrasket hvor lite nytt jeg har lest – fikk nok en real overdose i fjor med hele Bookerlista og litt vel mange norske. Jeg har faktisk bare lest en 2018bok, og det var Macbeth av Nesbø. Vi får se hva Booker kommer opp med i år, er litt avventende, men det er jo umulig å ikke ble engasjert når man leser det Labben skriver. Jeg kommer garantert til å kjøpe noen bøker på min Amerikareise, så vi får se hva som får bli med i kofferten hjem (jeg gjetter noe nytt og noe Daphne du Maurier).

 

Berlin, Berlin!

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (1939)

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will
have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”
Christopher moves to Berlin where he spends his time giving English lessons, writing and having a jolly good time. But this is Berlin in the early 1930s and behind the decadence lurks Nazism and violence and Christopher decides to leave the city in 1933.

Through his years in Berlin he meets a lot of interesting characters. My favourite is Sally Bowles, an English cabaret dancer who loves men and money. I think the reason why I love Sally is her complexity, she is both fun and depressed. There are other important and fascinating characters as well, and many of them Jewish or gay. And that is why this book is so sad. The last chapter made me cry because we now know what happened. It is also the reason why this book is important.

Isherwood simply amazed me with this book, in fact I read in just a few hours on a train between Oslo and Trondheim back in February (I’m superslow at logging my books this year). Now I’m eager to read the rest of his works. I already bought Mr Norris Changes Trains when visiting fantastic Berlin during Easter and his autobiography Christopher and His Kind is very high on my wish list.

silent spring.

Or 8 7 6 books behind schedule as Goodreads keeps informing me. In other words, I haven’t read at all this spring/ early summer. But now I have endless time (or about 7 weeks a month) to do some serious reading. I was smart and planned ahead and used my mom’s address when doing some serious book shopping. Not that this house is already full of unread books. Hopefully I’ll read most of them before heading south again.

I finally got around to finish Gösta Berling’s Saga by Selma Lagerlöf (1891) in the middle of May. It took months to read it, mainly because I kept it by my bed. The book is about a handful inhabitants in a small Swedish town, and mainly about a priest turned a poor drunkard turned a cavalier, Gösta Berling. It can be read as a collection of short stories, as the chapters have little to do with each other, but are all linked to the small town. It was confusing because of all the characters and although I enjoyed the prose, I never got into it. And it’s a shame because I had high expectations for this book, mainly because of Haruhi‘s fangirling and the fact that Lagerlöf is a Nobel Prize winner. Oh well.

 I spent the beginning of the summer holidays rereading the Hobbit (1937) and the Lord of the Rings (1954-55) trilogy as I needed something familiar to get my reading started again after a long break. I used to read these books annually in my teens until the first film came out in 2001. I also reread them in 2009. I have always favoured the Hobbit, but this time I couldn’t quite get involved in the story, and that was really annoying. I don’t know why, but it could be that I was still stressed after the end of another school year, or that I simply have grown too old for the Hobbit.  

LOTR has definitely grown on me, I always used to find it too detailed, but this time I couldn’t get enough. I swear I must have screamed Gondor! and Gandalf! in my sleep. I never wanted it to end, and I had to take a long break before I read the final chapters, although the battle of the Shire is one of my favourite parts. I still haven’t decided who’s my favourite character.

What’s next on my reading list? I started Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel yesterday, and I love it. I’m forever reading the Crossing by Cormac McCarthy and Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, hopefully finishing them before the summer is up. I gave Villette by Charlotte Brontë the boot yesterday as too much of the important stuff is in French and je ne parle pas francois.

Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy. Come home. I’m so cold! Let me in-a-your window.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Heathcliff is an orphan who is adopted by the man who owns Wuthering Heights. Here he meets Catherine, who will become the love of his life, but she chose the neighbour, Edgar Linton. And then dies after giving birth to a girl, Cathy. Heathcliff ends up marrying, Edgar’s sister, Isabella, as a revenge on both Catherine and Edgar. He is not in love with Isabella, and she suffers so much that she eventually runs off to London and gives birth to a son there, and names him Linton. When Isabella dies, Linton is sent to live with Heathcliff, and he has a scheme for his sickly son.

I first read Wuthering Heights over 10 years ago, and I loved it, but I couldn’t really remember what it was about. And then last year, when I read A True Novel by Minae Mizumura (which is based on Wuthering Heights), I wanted to reread it. And I’m sort of let down, and I think I can blame Mizumura for that, as she made the modern Japanese version way better than the original.
That doesn’t necessary mean that Wuthering Heights isn’t good, because it is. I especially liked the beginning, but as the story continues it just too detailed so I lost interest, and then it got better towards the end again.  

Read them both is my advice.

in the midnight hour she cried more, more, more.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
 “Who what am I? My answer: I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow the world.”
Saleem Sinai is born at the strike of midnight when India gained its independence, and then he is switched at birth. He discovers that he has a superpower, telepathy. He can communicate with the other children with superpowers whom are born in the midnight hour of India’s independence. Saleem’s life is influenced by the events that shape India’s history.

The book is high up on the list of the most difficult books I have read. I spent nearly three months on the 650 pages, and many pages had to be read over and over so I could decipher some meaning from it. But it was definitely worth it! There’s a myriad of characters, a large dose of magic realism and you will learn a lot about the history of India.

 It’s one of those books which are impossible to explain what it is about and why it is so mesmerising. I guess you have to read it yourself to discover what’s so great about it. I’m actually proud of myself for finally completing a Rushdie. I tried years ago to read the Satanic Verses, but I was way too young. I still don’t think I’m ready for that one yet, but I also have more to choose from on my shelves (and a new one to be published this year).

This was the November read(!) in Line’s 1001 books reading circle.

 “I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’m gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”

ten.

the Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955)
“They were not friends. They didn’t know each other. It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future: each had stood and would stand before him, and he would know time and time again that he would never know them, and the worst was that there would always be the illusion, for a time, that he did know them, and that he and they were completely in harmony and alike. For an instant the wordless shock of his realization seemed more than he could bear.”
Tom Ripley is a man with no purpose and he takes whatever he can get. When he gets an invitation to go to Italy to try persuading an acquaintance to go back home, he immediately says yes. But the man, Dickie Greenleaf doesn’t want to go home, so Tom decides to stay as well in Mongibello, and eventually moves in with Dickie. Tom is a sociopath and he is insanely jealous of Dickie. He then murders Dickie and pretends to be Dickie, but Dickie’s friends are suspicious. Will they find out the truth?

 Highsmith has made the impossible possible, and I actually rooted for the murderer, even if he has nothing likeable about him. It was fascinating to read about how he fooled everyone and just kept spinning his net of lies. The book made me yearn for a time I have never known and travelling around Europe. I think she captures the mood of Americans in Europe at that time and the book reminded me both of Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I became hooked on Mr Ripley, and I’m glad that there are 4 more books to look forward to.

This was February’s book in Line’s 1001 books reading circle, and although I read it in February, I just have been too busy to write about it until now. Which is bad because I have forgotten what I wanted to say.

four.

Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb (1999)
 “Ancient Japanese protocol stipulated that the Emperor be addressed with “fear and trembling”. I’ve always loved the expression, which so perfectly describes the way actors in Samurai films speak to their leader, their voices tremulous with almost superhuman reverence. 
So I put on the mask of terror and started to tremble.”
Amélie is excited about spending a year in a Japanese firm. She was born and lived in Japan until she was 5, but her parents were Belgian. The big Japanese corporation turns out to be a culture shock for Amélie, with its hierarchy and secret codes of conduct.

The book makes an attempt at being funny, but it didn’t make me laugh. I also found it to be shallow and too many things and words were repeated for a novel of just 130 pages. How about finding some synonyms for beautiful and blunder? But this may be the translator’s fault. I also wished the author would take a look at Japan outside the workplace as well, as I think that would maybe make it more interesting. I found the section about how Japanese women should behave to be the most interesting in the book. How this book got to be on the list of 1001 books you should read before you die is beyond me.

But I have high hopes for the film, as I think there is so much potential which can be played out on the big screen.

fifty-three.

the Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)
“We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us are slowly devoured by some disease, or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so…” 

In 1923, Virginia Woolf is working on a new novel, later to be named Mrs Dalloway, while trying to pull herself together. In 1949 in Los Angeles, Mrs Brown is pregnant with her second child and it’s her husband’s birthday, but all she wants to do is lay in bed and read Mrs Dalloway. In present day New York, Clarissa, who is called Mrs Dalloway by her former lover, Richard, is holding a party for him as he’s dying from AIDS.

The book starts with the suicide of Virginia Woolf, and that really sets the mood for the rest of the book. I kept wondering whether both Clarissa and Mrs Brown would kill themselves as well. It is beautifully written, and I really like how Cunningham has included passages from Mrs Dalloway. It was a perfect read for my current mood, and it really hit home. Save it for your blue periods.

Another thing I discovered while reading this, is that I totally didn’t understand Mrs Dalloway at all. I definitely need to read it again, but it needs to mature for a couple of years first. I also need to watch the film again.

This was November’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading circle.

forty-seven.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1869)
“”How can we fight the French, Prince?” said Count Rostopchin. “Can we arm ourselves against our teachers and divinities. Look at our youths, look at our ladies! The French are our Gods: Paris is our Kingdom of Heaven.””

It is 1805 and Russia and France are about to go to war. In the Rostov household, they are concerned about three things; money, marrying off their children and war. The Bolkonskys’ estate is out on the countryside where the old Prince holds the rest of the family in a tight clutch. Pierre Bezukhov is the illegitimate son of one of the richest counts in Russia, and he unexpectedly inherits the money and climbs on the social ladder. He marries one of the important ladies, Helene Kuragina, but the marriage is colder than ice.

Napoleon and his army destroy the Russians, and even the aristocracy suffers horrible losses. The war changed the lives of the noble families, and they lived through tragedies, but also had some happy moments during the war. 

War and Peace is said to one of the best novels ever written. I cannot say that I agree, although I really enjoyed the story. But the bloody philosophical essays in between, and especially in the final epilogue. That really ruined the book for me. And Tolstoy sure takes his time to get to the point, and I believe that it would have been a lot better if only he had a strict editor. If you plan to read it, I suggest you go for a good edition which has put all the essays in an appendix.

But luckily, Tolstoy’s genius shines through, and those parts which deals with family life, and especially love, are brilliant and as good as Anna Karenina. I just wish he would have kept to those subjects, as the strategies and details about warfare don’t interest me at all. I do, however, see why many men list this as their favourite book. I’m just glad that I can tell the world that I have read War and Peace. 

This was September’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading challenge (and yes, I needed another week to finish it).

thirty-nine.

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (1958)
James Wormold is an Englishman selling vacuum cleaners in Havana. He lives a quiet life with his 17 year old daughter after his wife left them, and he has a few friends which he sees for drinks regularly. Then one day he is contacted by one of his fellow countrymen and is persuaded to become a spy.
James says yes because he thinks the money will give his daughter, Milly, a better education and future. He is expected to get his own agents and write reports, but instead he invents them. Trouble finds him when the agency is so interested in his findings that they ship him a secretary, Beatrice, and an accountant. And then his invented agents become very real.
This was my first meeting with Mr Greene and I enjoyed it from the first sentence until the last. It is entertaining and a satirical take on the Cold War. But most of all, it is the characters that makes this book, from the devoted Catholic Milly, to the Cuban police chief who is in love with her and goes under the name the Red Vulture, and I mustn’t forget Beatrice.  In fact, I liked it so much that I started on the Honorary Consul right after.