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.

all the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)
 “Their combined ages were two hundred and sixty-three years. None of them had ever been out of England, fought in a war, been in prison, ridden a horse, travelled in an aeroplane, got married, or given birth to a child. There seemed no reason why they should not continue in the same style until they died. Year in, year out, nothing ever happened in the Comstock family.” 
 Gordon hates money so much that he left his good job and started working for a small book shop. At night he writes poetry while glaring at the hated aspidistra on his shelf in his rented room. And always thinking about money and the fact that he is too poor to do anything.

So goes his life, until one day when he receives a letter and a cheque for 10 pounds from an American magazine that will publish one of his poems. He is going to give half of it to his sister who has always given him a hand, but first he is finally going to invite his girlfriend and a friend out to dinner. But the perfect night turns into a drunken stupor that ends in jail.

Orwell is a master in portraying the life on the dirty, poor streets of London. And as in all of his novels, the political aspect is close to the surface. Although Gordon is a miserable character, Orwell writes with an excellent sense of humour, and it is hard to feel sorry for  Gordon as he can only blame himself for his position. After all, the war against money is a battle that he is doomed to lose. The way the book ends is another plus, although I predicted it.

This was the remaining Orwell novel on my shelf, and that is a little sad. But he has written some very interesting non-fiction books, so I have something to look forward to. If you have only read Animal Farm and 1984, I highly recommend his other works.

Folkens! Lines 1001 bøker lesesirkel har gjenoppstått fra de døde. I januar leser vi en bok vi har lenge hatt lyst til å lese. I februar er det en 1001 bok fra en nobelprisforfatter som står for tur. Sleng deg på!

books of summer 2015.

I have had an unusual good reading summer. I read nine books in July, and two on my four day long Glaswegian holiday. I had planned to write a post for each book, but I have been struggling with one post for weeks; so I’m going to sum up my summer reading quickly, which is somewhat a shame as some of these books has deserved a post of its own. Oh well.

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin (2012)

Tags: young adult fiction, usa, queer, love, state of the nation, historical novels,
What is it about: A young girl spends the summer at a lake resort in Minnesota to escape a possible polio outbreak and her father’s ptsd. Away from her mother’s watchful eyes she is able to do birdwatching the way she wants, and then she finds love – forbidden love.

What’s the verdict:  As a book for teenagers, it’s probably good. For me, it was either too many things put into one book or not detailed enough. And all the birdlike observation became too much.

Alamut by Vladimir Bartol (1936)
 Tags: slovenia, historical novels, 1001 books, war and travel, not impressed, state of the nation,

What is it about: Sayyiduna is the religious leader for the Ismailis in the fortress of Alamut. In order to make his soldiers obey him, he decides to give them a taste of paradise with the help of drugs and a garden filled with beautiful girls, food and drinks.

What’s the verdict: I was really into the book for the first few chapter, then it downhill from there. Too much religious philosophy for my liking. Maybe I would have paid more attention if I had known that Alamut and Sayyiduna were real.  I think I’ll blame the reader and not the book.

the Crossing (1994) and Cities of the Plain (1996) by Cormac McCarthy
 Tags: usa, war and travel, state of the nation, books you should read

What is it about: The second and third books in the Border trilogy. Cowboys and horses crossing the Mexican border in the early 1940s.

What’s the verdict: As in all previous McCarthy books I’ve read, violence is ever present and I always feel covered in at least one layer of dirt while I read his novels. The Border trilogy is a great read.

Morvern Callar by Alan Warner (1995)
 Tags: uk, sex drugs and rock’nroll, books you should read, war and travel, family and self, crime and mystery, books into films, 1001 books

What is it about: When Morvern comes home from work and finds her boyfriend dead on the floor, what does she do? Call the police? Nope, she goes out, gets drunk and have a threesome (possible a foursome).

What’s the verdict: I loved it! Morvern is a real quirky character and although her actions aren’t really explained, it is interesting to follow her around in the small Scottish village and on crazy package holidays. The only thing I really didn’t really like was the ending, so I was happy to discover that there’s a sequel, which has of course entered my wish list.

the Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (2015)
Tags: man booker prize, uk, war and travel, family and self, books you should read, state of the nation

What is it about: Illegal and legal Sikh immigrants to United Kingdom. The reasons why they decided to leave India and how they make a living in the UK.

What’s the verdict: Another great novel set in India. If you like Indian writers, this is right up your ally. And the topic is really important right now. Another author I’m glad to have discovered.

Summer’s over and I’m glad I got to read as much as I did, but I’m still 3 books behind schedule on my 50 books a year challenge at Goodreads.  Right now I’m reading 3 heavy books at the same time (Moby Dick, A Brief History of Seven Killings and Jazz) and it feels like I’ll never finish any of them. Still I don’t want to give up on them as they are all good, they are just heavy and slow. I guess I have to be patient and take the time.

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.

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-four.

Ali and Nino by Kurban Said (1937)
“And for me this was the bell that went wrong; my first impulse to go to war as soon as possible. Now I had time to think. The caravan was wandering eastwards over the soft sand, lost in dream. The train was pushing westwards along its iron rails, mindless and mechanical. Why did I not raise my hand to pull the communication cord? This was where I belonged, to the camels, to the men leading them, to the sand! What was it to me, this world behind the mountains? These Europeans with their wars, their cities, their Czars, Kaisers and Kings? Their sorrows, their happiness, their cleanliness and their dirt – we have a different way of being clean or dirty, good or bad, we have a different rhythm and different faces. Let the train rush to the West. My heart and soul belong to the East.”

Ali Kahn is a Muslim of noble heritage, yet he falls in love with a Georgian Christian princess, Nino. They have been friends ever since they met on the way to school. Their worlds are completely opposite, Ali loves the eastern traditions and loathes the Russian dominance, while Nino loves Europe. Despite their differences, they love each other, and Nino says yes to Ali’s proposal on two conditions; he must never force her to wear the veil or put her in a harem. Nino’s parents give consent to their marriage on two conditions; Nino has to graduate and it must happen after the war.

The war happens to be the first World War, and it brings a lot of change to Baku. Ali wants to fight, but he doesn’t want to help Russia, so when Turkey goes to war against Russia, a lot of the Muslims of Baku decides to rise up against the Russians. But the uprising goes wrong, and they are forced to flee to Persia, where life changes completely for Nino.

This book will give you a crash course in religion and the history and geography of the Caucasus. It is also an intense love story. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it away. It is a great story and the language is lovely. In the beginning, I felt that the contrasts were too obvious and forced, but fortunately as the story gathered speed, they became less important.

Although Ali is the narrator in the book, Nino is in my opinion the real hero. I loved the parts where she fought with the eunuchs in Tehran. She also sacrifices everything for love. I have more mixed feelings for Ali and his beliefs. And why couldn’t this book have a happy ending?

thirty-two.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)

“‘ When one writes on psychiatry, one should have actual clinical contacts. Jung writes, Beuler writes, Freud writes, Forel writes, Adler writes – also they are in constant contact with mental disorder.’ 
‘Dick has me,’ laughed Nicole. ‘I should think that’d be enough mental disorder for one man.'”

Dick Diver is an American psychiatrist working in Switzerland where he meets a charming young rich American patient, Nicole Warner. Baby, Nicole’s sister, suggests that a doctor should marry Nicole so she would always have help. Dick then decides to marry Nicole, and they go to the French riviera to live. They live splendidly, with drunken parties and amazing friends. One of the people they meet, is Rosemary, a young American actress, who falls in love with Dick at the first sight. And Dick is not able to resist her, and he has to choose.

Fitzgerald is a master of writing about the rich and famous and intrigues. And this book has everything from love affairs to duels and the cover-up of a murder. I really enjoy reading about the Jazz Age and the glamourous lifestyle. The plot is also intriguing, and it is interesting to see how the characters change. My favourite scene was the break-up in the midst of Tour de France. Hilarious and sad at the same time. And what was the unspeakable thing Mrs McKisco witnessed in the bathroom?

A perfect book for lazy summer afternoons! 

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).

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.