Baby Jane by Sofi Oksanen (2005)
 What is wrong with Piki? She used to be an outgoing person, had plenty of friends and partied all night. And now she isn’t capable of buying groceries or even take out the trash. Her girlfriend tries everything, but watches Piki slowly fading. They start a successful business together; providing phone sex and shipping used underwear to their customers. Their relationship is dwindling and it doesn’t get better when the girlfriend discovers that Piki’s ex is doing the laundry and shopping for her.

Sofi knows how to get each sentence to punch you in the guts. I was only able to read a couple of pages a night because they are all so heavily loaded with emotions. And as the story unfolds and you get to know more about Piki and the girlfriend, you know it’s not going to end well. But still there are plenty of surprises.

It could easily have been a perfect read, but the last couple of paragraphs ruined it. It reminded me of all the stories of my students which are nicely built-up and then end terribly because they run out of time.

I’m still amazed that only one book by Sofi has been translated into English. Luckily they are found in many other languages.


Ravnene by Vidar Sundstøl (2011)

Lance Hansen finally solves the murder by Lake Superior. But while he is looking for the solution, his family is in a lot of trouble and especially his 17 year old niece, Chrissy.

It is hard to say something about this book without spoiling what has happened in the previous two. So this is just a post to mark that I have read it.

Read the trilogy, it is good.


Få meg på, for faen by Olaug Nilssen (2005)

Maria, the oldest daughter of Sebjørn, is often daydreaming of becoming famous while cleaning the university early in the morning in Bergen. Meanwhile, Alma, a 15 year old virgin back in Maria’s home town, spends all her time thinking about sex. Her fantasies include several men in her life, the second-oldest daughter of Sebjørn, various utensils and a sink. She constantly argues with her mother and steals alcohol from her. And then there’s the wife of Sebjørn, a housewife with 8 daughters. She is tired of her boring and slave-like life so she decides to go to Oslo and demonstrate for the cause of turnips.

This book is mainly know for its sex-scenes, although that is a small part of the book. It is definitely fun to read about Alma’s frustrations, but it wasn’t as shocking as I thought it would be. My favourite character and part of the book is the unnamed wife of Sebjørn.

As far as I can see, this book has not been translated into any other languages. But a film based on the book will be out this year. It has already received a prize for best screenplay at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York recently and has been giving great reviews. I can’t wait to see it.


De døde by Vidar Sundstøl (2009)

This is the second book in the Minnesota trilogy, and it is really hard to write a review of it without spoiling the first book.

Lance Hansen is out hunting deer with his brother, Andy, for the weekend. The relationship between the brothers has never been easy and the only thing they really do together is this annual hunt. But this time, the hunt turns into a paranoia and a struggle between life and death.

I enjoyed this book more than the first. Probably because it was so thrilling and the only thing I didn’t like about it was the lenght – 175 pages is way too short. The third book in the trilogy is out in May, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the end.


Drømmenes land by Vidar Sundstøl (2008)

Lance Hansen is a forest ranger in Tofte, Minnesota. One day when he is out investigating an illegal camp, he stumbles upon a bloody, naked man. This man is clearly traumatised and is only able to utter one word, love, first in Norwegian, and then in English. And then he discovers the naked body of yet one young Norwegian man.

As most inhabitants on the north shore of Lake Superior, Lance is a descendant of Norwegian (or Swedish) immigrants, and he is also the only person active in the history club in Tofte. While he is not in the investigation which is carried out by FBI and one detective from Norway, he wants to find out if this is the first murder ever in Tofte. And while looking for clues, he also stumbles upon facts that puts him in a difficult position regarding the investigation of the murdered Norwegian.

I chose to read this book strictly because it is about the north shore of Lake Superior and the Norwegian immigration. I was fascinated by all the signs along the road when driving down to Duluth two months ago and it was really interesting reading a novel about the place. A lot of the things I was wondering about were explained in the book and I don’t really care if it is a 100% true or made up.

This book is the first in a trilogy about Lance Hansen, and it ended really abruptly and unlike for a crime novel. It isn’t as thrilling as I expected, but the historical aspect and the characters certainly make up for it. I’m glad I packed the sequel in my baggage.

It hasn’t yet been published in English, but according to the author’s facebook page (first time I ever have looked up an author on facebook), it is under-way. It has been translated into several European languages.


Heimdal, California by John Erik Riley (2011)

What is this monster of a book really about? It is about the famous chef, by Norwegian standard, Balder Mehamn, who has a meltdown live on camera. He locks himself up in his apartment with a herd of journalists waiting outside. There he starts writing down his thoughts, trying to reconnect with himself. Because Balder Mehamn has not always been Balder Mehamn.

I said monster of a book because the main story is on 750 pages, and then there’s a hundred or so pages with footnotes. The footnotes are relevant and not relevant for the story. I skipped a lot of them as I have no interest in Star Wars and the like. And some of them were really unnecessary and made flipping the pages back and forth such a hassle.

My favourite part of the book is the letters from Cordelia, Balder’s ex. Cordelia is heartbroken and angry and eventually ends up in Heimdal, California where Balder grew up. Her letters are also filled with pictures and looking at the pictures this book feels more like an art project than a book.

The book is written in both Norwegian and English which was perfect for my bilingual brain. But I can see how it will make some people give up this book. Will this book ever be translated to other languages? If so, how would that be? were some of the questions that popped into my mind while reading this book. This book is filled with references to popular culture, websites and other things that readers in 2011 will instantly recognise (at least some of them, I was proud of myself recognising the Of Montreal lyrics), but how will it be to read this book in twenty years?

It was a long (took me over a month to finish it) and fascinating book and all honour to Riley for writing such a challenging book.


Afrodites basseng by Gert Nygårdshaug (2003)

This is the final book in the trilogy about Mino and his eco-terrorism. Jonar, a biologist, who lives isolated in the Norwegian forest with his eight year old son is having some very strange dreams about a young woman walking around in the desert. The only contact they have with the outside world is through Mino who operates the small fire-fighting plane on the small lake next to their cabin. Jonar receives a mysterious beautiful small chest from Mino, but no key, and the next day a very fast growing forest threatens their existence. Are they the only living humans?

I love Nygårdshaug and his amazing stories. They are thought-provoking, I love the characters and I’m almost reading them too fast with a smile on my face.


the Storyteller’s Market by Gert Nygårdshaug (2008)
(Fortellernes marked)

Eight letters sent from an old priest to a retired veterinarian and a librarian takes them on a voyage through history. The old priest is on a hunt for the truth about Jesus and the creation of Christianity. He writes the letters as mystery hunts, where he gives clues about his next discoveries and the two friends in a small village in Norway manage to follow his discoveries by using literary sources. And what the priest discovers will be a blow to all religions springing from the deserts in the Middle East.

Holy Grail, Templars, Maria Magdalena. Same shit, but definitely new and interesting wrapping. What I really liked about this version is the characters and their surroundings. The retired veterinarian and the librarian love good food and drink, fishing and women. And it is set some time in the near future with global warming. This is not a thriller, no hero being chased by Templars or the Illuminati, and I was actually relieved to discover it. Another thing that I liked was that it isn’t a complicated book and it is easy to follow as the important clues are repeated so I never lost track. And finally, it is in no way a copy of other works about the same theme.

The only thing that is wrong with this book is that it has not been translated to English.


Stalin’s Cows by Sofi Oksanen (2003)
(Stalinin lehmät)

Anna is half-Finnish and half-Estonian. Her mother is Estonian, takes her there often during the 1980s, when it still was Soviet. But her mother won’t let Anna be Estonian, because Estonian women are whores in the west. Anna’s father is rarely present, he still works in Soviet, but every time he comes home, Anna’s mum finds new evidence concerning his whores. Anna won’t allow her body to be more than 50 kgs.

This book has yet not been published in English, but it definitely should be. Oksanen’s third novel, however, Purge, has been published in English and it is my next purchase for sure.

It was really hard to read about Anna who suffered from bulimia. If I had read this a few years ago, it would have been thinspiration. But now it was like being haunted by a bad memory; all the rules, lies and feelings came back, so much of Anna was at some time me. But it is also a reminder of how far I have come and for that reason alone, I’m glad I read this book.

The Estonian part of the story is also a reason why I’m glad I have read it. It partially follows Anna’s mother from when she met Anna’s father and until Estonia’s independence. And it also goes further back than that, back to World War II. It is a beautiful portrait of the fear and absurdity in Soviet. And the attitude in the west towards people, and especially women, from the former Soviet. And it made me miss Finland and regret that I never learnt the language.

(This is without doubt the hardest and most personal post I have made and I have the urge to delete parts of it, but I’m trying to be brave.)


Den senile landmåleren by Arto Paasilinna (1991)
(Elämä lyhyt, Rytkönen Pitkä)

Originally written in Finnish, translated to Norwegian, hopefully to English one day. A cabdriver picks up a demented old man one day and together they go on an adventure into the Finnish north. At last, after a lot of drunkenness and debauchery, they end up at farm owned by the old man’s friend from the Winter War. The friend is tired of being a farmer so they plan to leave the farm, but destroy it completely before departure.

Arto Paasilinna is one of my favourite authors. He has written over 30 books, but only a very few are available in other languages than Finnish. I’m therefore seriously thinking about picking up a book in Finnish and read it with a lot of help from my Finnish-English dictionary and grandma as a summer project. The Year of the Hare and the Howling Miller have been published in English and I highly recommend both of them. Paasilinna manages to capture the Finnish people and nature with a touch of magic realism in a brilliant way. And the books are hilarious, yet often have a more serious message between the lines. This man deserves a Nobel Prize in Literature!