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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).

 

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.

Kings, queens and infidelities.

Three weeks away. Two of them were spent in New York, partying it up and sweating it out. A week was spent in Quebec and Nova Scotia, never enough time and I’m seriously considering migrating. I’m happy to report that I had an amazing time and only bought 5 books, and read 2 and a half of them. To celebrate my accomplishment, I made 3 orders at Amazon and 2 at BetterWorldBooks.

I don’t think I have ever read so little as I have done this summer. Only 4 in 5 weeks. Let’s start with the one I liked the least and end with the one you should read. Why, oh why, won’t you let me have as many tags as I want, Blogspot?

 Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow (1959)
Tags: not impressed, family and self, war and travel

Henderson is a millionaire who has all his life been driven by his inner voice saying I want, I want. This voice has driven him to primitive tribes in Africa where he tries to impress them with his greatness. Henderson is a serious contestant to the most annoying character award and that made the book really hard to read. The ethnocentric view didn’t help either. I had such high hopes for this Canadian Nobel Prize winning 1001-book, but was disappointed. So I’m reluctant to pick up Saul Bellow again. I read this as a part of Bjørg’s off the shelf project, this time the theme was books first published in English and it was supposed to be finished in May. Oops.

the Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham (2014)
Tags: family and self, queer, sex drugs and rock’n’roll


Barrett Meeks lives with his almost famous drug addicted brother and his dying wife. Barrett is too smart for his own good, never able to hold on to boyfriends or jobs. One night while walking through Central Park, he sees a light in the sky and he believes it has to mean something. I really enjoyed reading this book, but when I finished it was that all ran through my head. I expected something more out of this story and it is definitely not Cunningham at his best.

 Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)
Tags: family and self, love

Fanny Price comes from a poor family with too many children and is therefore sent to live with her richer relatives at Mansfield Park.  Being an Austen novel, there will be love and there will be drama. But the build up was so slow that it took two months to finish the 500 pages, but when the drama finally started (around page 300 or so), I wasn’t able to put it down. There’s quite a scandal in this one. Of the 3 Austens I have read, this is a solid number two after Pride and Prejudice. This was June’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading circle, but I’m way behind. Another oops.

the Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (2014)
 Tags: books you should read, books that made me cry, family and self, sex drugs and rock’n’roll, supernatural, crime and mystery

The Kings have been lobster fishers on Loosewood Island for generations, and now Cordelia has her own boat. The family legend says that when the first Kings settled on the island, the sea gave him food and a wife, but in return, the family have to give a son back to the sea. The interesting thing about Loosewood is that it is disputed, both Canada and USA claim it. There is also a feud going on with lobster fishers from another town because they fish in their waters and bring drugs to the island. I had been waiting for this book ever since I read Touch and it didn’t disappoint. I love how the island itself is a character and that it suddenly turned very gangster. Cordelia is a wonderful heroine and the selkies and mermaids brought their magical touch. Y’all need to love Zentner!

Hopefully my reading will pick up during the last two weeks of my summer, but those will be busy as well with wedding, music festival and general fun coming up! I’ll leave you with a picture of a fat woman wearing a bikini (scandalous I know) gazing at her childhood dream destination, Prince Edward Island. Hope you have a great summer!

two.

Cain by José Saramago (2009)
 “The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us, and we don’t understand him.”
After killing his brother, Cain, is condemned to walk on the earth for eternity. He is lead from one major event in the Old Testament to an other, while witnessing the wickedness of God.

Cain is the last novel the Nobel Prize winner wrote before his death, and it is hard to not read it as a personal argument with God. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t an interesting or good book. I really enjoyed reading it, probably because I always teach the kids about God’s bad side in the Old Testament.

Another thing which stuck with me after reading the book, was the style. The first letter in the sentences were written with capital letters, the rest not. And the chapters didn’t have any paragraphs. At first it was hard to get used to, but it totally fits with the story and makes it more intriguing.

I kept comparing the book to the Testament of Mary because of the obvious Bible retelling, and I definitely liked Cain better. I think it is because Saramago dared to be personal and controversial and went a long way with the interpretation and retelling of the famous Bible stories. And the ending is brilliant.

This is the third book by Saramago that I have read, and my favourite. I definitely must read the Gospel According to Jesus Christ one day.

ten.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (1937)
Lennie and George are travelling around California, looking for work at farms. Lennie isn’t quite right in the head, and George promised that he would look after him after Lennie’s aunt died. Lennie’s favourite thing is to hear George talking about the small farm they’re going to have once they have worked hard and saved up enough money. Lennie has a particular soft spot for everything beautiful and things that are nice to touch, like puppies, mice and dresses, which has got him in trouble before.

When they are approaching the new farm, George orders Lennie to not speak so there won’t be any trouble. The farmer is suspicious, but he gives them a chance when George ensures him that Lennie might be dumb, but he is excellent at following orders. The trouble is that the farmer’s son disliked the big dumb Lennie and he tries his best to make sure that Lennie messes it up.

Of Mice and Men is a short story, but it is sure one that takes time to forget. It has the same setting as the Grapes of Wrath, but this has a lot of humour between the lines, although it deals with serious topics like mental health, racism and poverty. And the end is really mindblowing.

The most intriguing thing I learnt from Wikipedia regarding this book: The character of Lennie Small is used as the standard for legal mental retardation for executing a prisoner in Texas. If a person appears smarter than Lennie Small in an interview then he may be executed. If he does not, then he cannot understand his crime(s).

nine.

the Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1926)
“That was it. Send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him. Now go and bring her back. And sign the wire with love. That was it all right.”
Jake Barnes is an American journalist living in Paris. He spends his days working and his nights drinking with his crowd, including Lady Brett Ashley, a stunning English woman who falls in love easily, but is engaged to a Scot, Mike Campbell. And men fall as easily for her. One of them is Robert Cohn, a writer who has a steady and jealous girlfriend, Frances.

Jake has known Brett since the first World War, and they have had their moments, but Jake is one of the persons Brett can trust the most. Jake is planning to go to Spain to do some fishing and then do the bullfighting festival of Pamplona with his friend coming over from America, Bill, and Robert. But Brett and Mike also come along and the wine and festival bring out the worst in everyone.

Paris in the roaring 20s must have been magical and Hemingway portrays the lost generation perfectly. The tension between the characters are present, but you also feel that you don’t know the whole picture. Some things are revealed as the story goes on, but a lot of things are left to the imagination.

I had a hell of a time reading this novel. It might be because I was under the influence of some excellent Italian red wine while reading most of it. But how can you read a novel soaked in wine without actually drinking some?

“It was like certain dinners I remember from the war. There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people”.

forty-nine.

the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1906-1921)
(the Man of Property, Indian Summer of a Forsyte, In Chancery, Awakening, To Let)
“The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but as a family; this resentment expressed itself in an added perfection of raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an exaggeration of family importance, and – the sniff.”
The Forsyte Saga spans from 1886 to 1920 and deals with the ups and downs of many of the family members. But mainly Soames. Soames is a man of property and he isn’t happy when he discovers that his wife, Irene, is in love with an other man. And the other man is even engaged to another Forsyte! 
I remember reading the first chapter and not understanding much, too many names and details and I worried that the rest of the book would be the same. Fortunately it isn’t, and the chance of scandals really increased my interest. And also that there is a lot of comedy hidden within, like the names of all the companies.
Soames is my least favourite character and I grinned every time he didn’t get things his way. He did one good thing towards the end, but it doesn’t make up for the horrible things he did. I had a couple of potential favourite characters but they all ended up dead and the all the female characters ended up being dull after their moments of rebellion. The last book, To Let, was disappointing. It didn’t have the same intensity as the others and I might be biased on the fact that I had hopes for Fleur and Jon.
What I really liked about this saga were the historical aspects and the focus on change. The old Forsytes never got used to the idea of cars and loathed the modern youths. Soames invested in arts and the fact that he didn’t like his Gauguin picture, made me even dislike him more. 

All in all, it’s entertaining and a brilliant picture of upper class life in London around the end of the Victorian era. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you like family sagas and enjoy scandals.

John Galsworthy also wrote more books about the Forsytes, and they are collected in the works named A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter, which means that the whole Forsyte story is about 3000 pages long. I doubt I will read the rest as I have far too many other books to read, but who knows, maybe some time in the distant future.

This was October’s read in Line’s 1001 challenge.

forty.

the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
“And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”
Tom Joad, jr is coming home after having spent 4 years in prison for killing a man, only to find out that his family has disappeared and their house is wrecked. His family has, along with thousands others, been kicked from their land and the tractors are moving in and they are now preparing leaving for California where workers are needed. But in California hundreds of thousands like the Joads are looking for work.

Set during the Great Depression, the book follows the Joads from the loss of their property to poverty in California. And along the way, they meet all sorts of people; unfriendly employers, terrible police and kind strangers. Steinbeck is an excellent writer and his portrays of the people along the road and the Joad family are amazing. I especially liked those chapters which zoomed out from the Joads and gave a broader perspective on the conditions for the migrants. And his writings made my skin boil with anger because of all the unfairness and discrimination. I actually had dreams about this book, which means that it left a huge impact on me.

It is definitely one of the best books I have ever read. The only thing I didn’t like was the abrupt ending. But it was a nice book to read when I have just came back from California myself and I have vivid memories of the landscape. It will not be long until I read another work by Steinbeck.

This was August’s book in Line’s 1001 books challenge.

sixty-seven.

A House for Mr Biswas by V.S Naipaul (1961)
 But bigger than them all was the house, his house. How terrible it would have been, at this time, to be without it: to have died among the Tulsis, amid the squalor of that large, disintegrating and indifferent family; to have left Shama and the children among them, in one room; or worse, to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one’s portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one had been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated.”

Mr Biswas’ mother was told to keep him away from water by the Hindu pundit whom told his future. Yet Mr Biswas seeks water which eventually leads to his father’s death. Mr Biswas comes from a poor family, and he is sent to various jobs without much luck. He eventually gets a job painting signs for a rich family and he falls in love with one of their daughters.

Marrying the girl, Shama, means marrying the family. And the Tulsis are the in-laws from hell. Mr Biswas has to live with them and work for them for very little money and bad food. All he wants is to be able to build or buy a house for his family.

V.S Naipaul impressed me with a Bend in the River, and a House for Mr Biswas is also a great read. I really enjoyed reading about Indian descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. This book wasn’t as comic as the cover made it to be, but it definitely put me in a good mood. I have already put more of his books on my wish list.

sixty-three.

the Elephant’s Journey by José Saramago (2008)
 
The elephant, Solomon, and his keeper, Subhro, are journeying from Lisbon to Vienna in the 1550s. Solomon is a gift from the Portuguese king to the Hapsburg archduke.

The journey of Solomon is a true story, but José Saramago has invented the details about the trip. I enjoyed parts of the books, there were even sentences I found hilarious. But most of the book is sadly boring descriptions about the journey. I would have wanted more fiction, maybe a few amazing conversations between the men taking part of the journey. 
A few years ago I read Blindness and loved it. And I think that’s why I’m so disappointed by the Elephant’s Journey.