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).

 

of whales and men.

the North Water by Ian McGuire (2016)
 Behold the man is the opening sentence, and that we really must do. The man in question, Drax, is a brute, a lover of rum and young boys. He is about to ship out with a whale boat named the Volunteer. The year is 1857, and the traditional whale ships are met with hard competitions from the steamers. The captain on the ship is deemed unlucky as he has lost ships and men before, so the atmosphere aboard the ship is nervous.

There is another man we must observe, Patrick Sumner, who has signed up to be the ship’s doctor. He has come back from India where he witnessed the siege of Delhi and the horrors of war. And because of that he is not able to sleep and function without laudanum. But as the ship’s doctor he will witness things equally as bad or even worse; venereal diseases, clubbing of baby seals, conspiracies, frost bites, rape and even murders. One thing that is for certain is that both the ship and its crew are beyond hope.

When I read the book’s description, I knew that this would be right up my alley and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint. Although it is dark, violent and gory, sometimes bordering the grotesque, I loved every word of the book. The language is crucial in order to make such a wild tale work, and it flows perfectly while being entertaining and salty. The only fault I see is that it was simply too short, I wish the author would give more details of the returns at the end.

I have a sneaking feeling that the North Water might end up as one of my 2016-favourites.

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.

trust me, I’m telling you stories.

the Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1987)
 Henri is the man who prepares chickens for Napoleon. And because of that he gets to see the battlefields of Europe, all the way to Moscow. Meanwhile, in Venice, a web-footed girl named Villanelle works at a casino. At work she cross dresses to flirt with the customers and she falls in love with a married woman. Years later, Henri and Villanelle meet on the outskirts of a burning Moscow and they decide to desert together, making their way to Venice where Henri has to find Villanelle’s heart.

I’m amazed by the fact that this book is a mere 180 pages long, but has so many stories within the story. I loved the setting, and if I could time travel, Venice would be one of the places I’d visit (but not now, as it is a tourist trap). I also learnt more about Napoleon. All in all, it’s a great read and that was a pleasant surprise as I didn’t enjoy Orange is the Only Fruit when I read it years ago.

(Why is it always so hard to write a lot about the books you have come to love?)

This was my choice for Hedda’s off-the-shelf 2016 reading challenge; a book with a red cover. I’m months behind in blogging.

performing Shakespeare at the end of the world.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
 A pandemic has wiped out most of the world’s population and has left the towns and cities desolate. The Traveling Symphony is a troupe of performers travelling through a vast area around the Great Lakes. Kirsten was a child actress in a production of King Lear in Toronto when the pandemic broke out, but doesn’t remember much of the years before she found the Traveling Symphony. But what she does remember, is that an actor, Arthur Leander, died on stage that last night, and ever since she has been obsessed with him; and searches empty houses for magazines and other memorabilia. 

The post-apocalyptic world is a dangerous place, and the town St. Deborah by the Water has really changed since the last time they were in town. A Prophet has taken over and banished all non-believers. When they leave the town, they discover that a young girl has sneaked on board, and they find themselves in danger as the villagers are trying to get the girl back as she is to be married to the Prophet.

In addition to follow the Traveling Symphony, the book also has flashbacks to the world before the pandemic, and it especially focuses on Arthur and his wife, Miranda, but also on the man who tried to save Arthur on the night he died. I think the most interesting part is the difference between the now and the then, and how quickly everything we are used to just vanished. I had a burning question all through the book and I’m glad it was answered at the end and that it was the answer I was hoping for (and no, I won’t tell you what it is as it sort of spoil things). The only person I would love to get to know better is the Prophet, what happened in between his childhood and becoming the Prophet?  It is a really interesting read, perfect for long sleepless summer nights.

the dragon’s mist.

the Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (2015)
 “Yet are you so certain, good mistress, you wish to be free of this mist? Is it not better some things remain hidden from our minds?”
“It may be for some, father, but not for us. Axl and I wish to have again the happy moments we shared together. To be robbed of them is as if a thief came in the night and took what’s most precious from us.”
“Yet the mist covers all memories, the bad as well as the good. Isn’t that so, mistress?”
“We’ll have the bad ones come back too, even if they make us weep or shake with anger. For isn’t it the life we’ve shared?” 

Beatrice and Axl set out to visit their son in a neighbouring village.  The way to the village is dangerous as it is filled with ogres, bandits and other foul creatures. They spend a night in a Saxon village which is on guard as some villagers have just been attacked by ogres. When they are leaving, they’re asked to take a young boy, Edwin, with them as he has been bitten by a strange creature and the villagers banish him. A warrior, Wistan, also follows them to ensure that they will be safe.

Axl has lately been concerned about that they seem to have forgotten most of their lives. Whilst they are travelling he learns that the memory losses are caused by the shedragon’s breath which is also the reason for the misty valleys. He also learns that both Wistan and Lord Gawain, who they also meet, have been given the roles as dragonslayers. And after a lot of twists and turns, Beatrice and Axl find themselves at the dragon’s lair.

The book is certainly different from what I have been reading lately, and it’s refreshing. It has the perfect amount of fantasy for me, which means just a dash, and I love books about travelling. It was certainly an unexpected book from Ishiguro. I’m also curious about whether it will be nominated to any prizes this year. I certainly hope so, but I know that there are many books coming out this year by excellent authors like Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Franzen, Louis de Bernières and more, so it will be a tough competition.   

the cabin in the woods.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (2015)
“’Dates only make us aware of how numbered our days are, how much closer to death we are for each one we cross off. From now on, Punzel, we’re going to live by the sun and the seasons.’ He picked me up and spun me around, laughing.’Our days will be endless.’” 
Peggy is 8 when her father takes her from her home in London to a remote cabin in Germany. He tells her that the rest of the world is destroyed and that they are the only ones left. They barely make it through the first hard winter, and Punzel, as she now calls herself, has to survive on roots and insects. She spends 8 years in the cottage before going back to London.

I absolutely loved the idea of this book, but the way the plot was structured ruined it for me. I wish that it would have been chronologically instead of flashbacks, because then it would have been more exciting. When you already know in the beginning of the book that she makes it back after eight years, it’s not really exciting.

I do understand that it is meant to be more about the mental aspect of being kidnapped and brainwashed than a thriller, but it didn’t really work for me. And the real shocker in the book came way too late to make a real impact on me. But yet, I still think of Peggy and that awful cabin.

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.”

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.

the birth of a nation through a child’s eyes.

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (2002)
“When my father was a young man in Vilna, every wall in Europe said, ‘Jews go home to Palestine.’ Fifty years later, when he went back to Europe on a visit, the walls all screamed, ‘Jews get out of Palestine.'”

  Amos was 9 when Israel became a nation. And 12 when his mother committed suicide. In his memoir, he tells the story of his family and how they suddenly found themselves in the Holy Land. He also gives an insight about what it was like being a child in Jerusalem under the making of Israel. But most importantly, it’s about the joys and sorrows of a family.

 Beautifully written, it’s both tragic and funny at the same time. I have had a hard time coming up with something clever to say about it, and that usually means that the book is great.

What I liked best about the book, is that it doesn’t feel like a memoir at all. I think it’s because the story isn’t chronological, but jumps back and forth in time. I also learnt a lot from the book. The most eye-opening information, at least for me, was the British involvement when Israel was created. It also reminded me how much I need to read Jerusalem. Needless to say that I have definitely added more books by Amos Oz to my reading list. I’m also excited that Natalie Portman is making this book into a film. 

I read this as a part of Bjørg and Hedda‘s off-the-shelf challenge, this time the theme was Asia. And A Tale of Love and Darkness has been on my shelf since 2011, so about time.