ny favoritt!

… 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.

the saddest book I ever read.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  “They all—Malcolm with his houses, Willem with his girlfriends, JB with his paints, he with his razors—sought comfort, something that was theirs alone, something to hold off the terrifying largeness, the impossibility, of the world, of the relentlessness of its minutes, its hours, its days.” 

Four young men became friends at college and then move to New York to pursuit different careers, but staying friends. While JB, Malcolm and Willem are sharing everything about their past and present lives, dreams and failures, Jude is a closed book. They know very little of Jude’s childhood and inner life, the only things they know are the things they are able to witness themselves.

Jude was left in the trash as a baby, picked up by a monastery where he was punished for every little thing. And then sexually abused. Things go from bad to much worse as one of the brothers runs off with him. A couple of years later he barely survives something which he himself describes as a car accident to his friends, and his body is severely damaged after it. Once he starts college, things really improve, but yet he feels the need to punish himself almost every night.

 This book is incredibly sad. I cried, cried and cried. And despite the descriptions of all the terrible things Jude went through I couldn’t put it down. Luckily, it’s not all bad, it’s really about the strength of friendship and love. And that’s what makes it so beautiful. It is definitely the best book I have read in years, and it’s a long time since I have been so involved in a book. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s just fiction, and not real. I’m hoping that it will win this year’s Man Booker Prize.

(So much unsaid about this book, so many emotions running wild.)

 “You won’t understand what I mean now, but someday you will: the only trick of friendship, I think, is to find people who are better than you are—not smarter, not cooler, but kinder, and more generous, and more forgiving—and then to appreciate them for what they can teach you, and to try to listen to them when they tell you something about yourself, no matter how bad—or good—it might be, and to trust them, which is the hardest thing of all. But the best, as well.” 

søstre på godt og vondt.

 Jenny og Sol er søstre. Etter morens tragiske død, så overtar Jenny huset, og tar seg av sin blinde bestefar. Storesøster Sol er på kjøret, og kommer bare innom når hun er blakk og trenger et sted å kræsje.
Historien gir også tilbakeblikk på barndommen deres, med særlig fokus på når det begynner å gå galt for Sol. Boka er trist som faen, og det tristeste av alt er vel at Jenny ikke har noe liv; hun forsøker å studere, men må hele tiden passe på Sol og bestefaren. Språket i boka er nydelig og lyrisk. Selv om det tok ei stund å lese den, så ble den dessverre fort glemt. Det er også noe annet som skurrer i historien, men jeg kan ikke helt sette fingeren på hva det er. 
Boka er nominert til Bokbloggerprisen 2014. Nå gjelder det bare å få lest Finny ly av Aina Basso, og så finne ut hvilken jeg skal stemme på.

Germany between the wars.

the Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck (2007)
The Würsich sisters, Helene and Martha, have a Jewish mother and a father who is fatally wounded in World War I. While their father is away, their mother becomes the mad woman in the attic. The girls have to take care of themselves, and both of them become nurses. When Martha’s lover, Leontine, goes to study medicine in Berlin and also ends up marrying a man, Martha is heartbroken and starts doing drugs. The economy is bad after WWI, and the girls are struggling to find work that pay well. They end up going to Berlin to live with their aunt.

Their aunt, Fanny, is rich, has a string of lovers and throws many parties. Helene is too young for the parties, but Martha fits right in and Helene must often help her sister to bed. And once in Berlin, Martha and Leontine revived their relationship. Years pass, and then Helene meets the love in her life, Carl. But danger and tragedy loom in the horizon.

A book that starts with a woman being raped by Soviet soldiers and then goes back in time and continues with incest, is a heavy read. And especially when you know because of the setting and characters that something is bound to go wrong. But thankfully, this book has its cheerful sides as well. I especially enjoyed the part  from where the sisters lived with their aunt in Berlin and until the epilogue.

It is one of those books which are entwined with history, and I learnt a lot about Germany between the wars. And especially how they executed the race laws. The only thing that really irked me with the book, was the epilogue. I get the main idea behind it and the symbolism, but it just left too many questions unanswered. And the biggest question of all, was the simple why.  But the book is really well-written, sad, beautiful and dark. I have already put the rest of Franck’s books on my wish list.

fuck cancer.

the Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)
“But it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he has Cassius note, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.” 
Hazel Grace has terminal cancer and borrowed time. She is miserable and spends most of her days reading, so her parents force her to go to a support group for cancer kids. There she meets Augustus and they feel a mutual attraction and become instant friends. Hazel forces Augustus to read her favourite book, and he loves it and writes to the author because Hazel wants to know what happened to the characters in the book. The author then invites them to Amsterdam, where they get to taste champagne before their dreams are shattered.
I cried my eyes out. But before that, I laughed plenty. It’s easy to see why half of the girls in one of my classes chose this for their book report project. And it was because of them that I read it as I was extremely bored while they were typing away their reports and not needing any helped so I picked up the book and began to read. I was hooked. 
I love the way it’s written and the language. And there are so much information about everything from cancer to Amsterdam and Maslow’s pyramid of needs. I’m saving the film for the next time I need a good cry.
  
“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

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. 

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.

thirty-six.

Monstermenneske by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold (2012)
Kjersti has ME and has been sick for years. So sick that she is so exhausted that she cannot even sleep. But she cannot give up, and decides to put one of the stories she has in her mind, onto the screen. Even if all she can manage is a few sentences every day.
Skomsvold debutated with the Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am in 2009 and her second book is about ME, the writing process and what happened after she finally managed to finish her first book. But it is also about heart breaks, hating yourself and your looks, fascinating people, literature and wonderful friendships. It is painful to read about Kjersti’s view of herself and her condition, but there are so many amazing and funny observations.
 I really enjoyed the book despite it being sad and hard to read at times and I’m definitely going to read her first book!

thirty-five.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (1995)
 “…there was another, gorier parturition, when two nations incarnated out of one. A foreigner drew a magic line on a map and called it the new border; it became a river of blood upon the earth. And the orchards, fields, factories, businesses, all on the wrong side of that line, vanished with a wave of the pale conjuror’s wand.” 
Dina Dalal’s life hasn’t been easy after her husband died after just three years of marriage. Refusing her brother’s pleas for her to get remarried, she has to support herself. When her eyes are failing her, she hires two tailors to do her job, Ishvar and Omprakash and takes in a boarder, Maneck, as well. And she hopes that the landlord won’t notice the three extra people in her flat.
A mesmerising read from the first page to the last. The story takes you through the history of India from its independence through the eyes of its people. It mainly focuses on the four people in Dina’s flat, but also the people they meet. There are many wonderful stories within the story. There are so many tragic stories, but it is written in a dry witty style. 
The only thing I didn’t like with the story was the ending. Why did it have to end that way? But I guess it’s one of those books that just don’t work with a happy ending.
 
“You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes’, he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.”