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).

 

february/march.

Another short summary of the latest books I have read. Two very good ones, one so-so, and one that disappointed despite having the prettiest name and cover. An interesting note is that the two débutantes chose to write in English, and not their native tongues. And then I might have a new author amongst my favourites.

7. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford (2004)
Tags: non-fiction, state of the nation, war and travel, biography, usa

 “The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas, and gave the world no new crops or methods of agriculture. Their own craftsmen could not weave cloth, cast metal, make pottery, or even bake bread. They manufactured neither porcelain nor pottery, painted no pictures, and built no buildings. Yet, as their army conquered culture after culture, they collected and passed all of these skills from one civilization to the next.”

Genghis Khan (1162-1227) was the man who united the Mongols and then created an enormous empire. This book gives a thorough account of his life and what happened to the empire after his death. Definitely entertaining and I learnt a lot (like that the empire crumbled as the black plague spread). Definitely a good pick if you want to learn more about the Mongols. I read this in the beginning of February as a part of Ingalill’s biography reading circle where that month’s topic was men with moustaches.

8. Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle (2003)

 Tags: books you should read, sex drugs and rock’n’roll, war and travel, 1001 books, books about the arctic, usa

A community of hippies are forced to leave their property in California after too many encounters with the police. Where can no one bother them? Alaska. So they pack everything they own, including goats, into an old bus and set off. Meanwhile, in Alaska, Sess Harder has lived alone for years running a trap line by a remote river, but now he’s getting hitched. How will they get along with hippies as neighbours?

I loved this book from the first page and I never wanted it to end. It’s hilarious, sad and violent. I think I have discovered a new dirty old man to add to my favourites, and I’m thrilled that he has written so many books to discover.

9. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck (2014)

 Tags: crime and mystery, sweden, historical novels, books about the arctic, state of the nation, supernatural

‘Wolf winter,’ she said, her voice small. ‘I wanted to ask about it. You know, what it is.’
He was silent for a long time. ‘It’s the kind of winter that will remind us we are mortal,’ he said. ‘Mortal and alone.’ 

 Swedish Lappland, 1717. A family has just moved to Blackåsen from Finland. Then one day when the girls are out looking after the animals, they find a dead man. It looks like an animal has torn him up, and people speaks of the devil, but Maija is convinced that this is done by a human. But who?

I liked the book for the story, the setting and the characters. The writing is also good. But there are too many loose ends towards the end of the book, so I was left with too many questions at the end to really enjoy it. 

 

10. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkava (2015)
Tags: family and self, crime and mystery, supernatural, bulgaria, not impressed, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Thea is a talented Bulgarian pianist who has just started at Princeton, just like her sister did 15 years earlier. But her sister never graduated, as she died at Princeton, and then her body was stolen from the funeral home and hasn’t been found. Thea loves Princeton, and she quickly meet the man of her dreams, but there is an air of mystery surrounding him.

This book was just too much. I got 50 shades of grey vibes from the Thea’s love interest and the mix of modern life and ancient Greek myths was exciting until the point when it just got too much. I had to read the end several times, and I still don’t get it. It was also too easy to guess what was going to happen. And apparently this is the first book in a saga… No, just no. 

Now, if only I can finish Gösta Berling’s Saga before Easter… It’s good, but I can only handle it in small doses.

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.

on not reading nor writing.

the books I haven’t blogged about
I cannot remember the last time I have spent so little time on books. I just don’t seem to have the time nor energy to read. And I read so slow, it took over a month to finish the Lives of Others. And that would have been okay if I had read other books at the same time, but I haven’t.  My main concern is that I won’t be able to complete my main reading goal of reading 50 books this year. Nine books to go and less than two months left of the year. The most frustrating thing is that I don’t seem able to write about the books I have read. I’m not going to care about the rest of my reading goals as long as I complete my main goal. Which means giving up on all the awesome reading circles, although I really want to read those awesome books, and I will try to read them as fast as I can (and link of course).  What went wrong? I have absolutely no idea. Anyway, here’s a short summary of what I have actually read in the last few months:

36. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1996)
Tags: 1001 books, books into films, state of the nation, war and travel, books you should read, family and self, love, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Two teenagers ride from their homes in Texas into Mexico where they find jobs at a horse ranch. The first book in the Border trilogy and it is as amazing and awful as all of McCarthy’s works. I’ll write more once I have finished the trilogy. Read it!

38. Encircling 1 by Carl Frode Tiller (2007)
Tags: family and self, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

David has lost his memory, and his friends, ex-lovers and family write him letters to help him get his memory back. This is the first book in the Encircling trilogy and I will write more once I have finished it. It will be published in English next year, and I hope it will be as well received worldwide as it has been in Norway, despite the fact that I’m not entirely convinced this is brilliant. That is probably why I’m still only a few chapters in in book 2 and haven’t picked it up in a month or so.


40. Våke over dem som sover by Sigbjørn Skåden (2014)
Tags: books not yet translated into english, books about the arctic, books you should read, family and self, books that made me cry, from the library, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Amund is a young Sami artist who travels to Kautokeino to work on his new project and with the kids at the local lower secondary school. When he is there, he learns about the extended abuse of under age girls while he himself forms a relationship with one of the pupils he got to know in the lower secondary school. The ending is disturbing, and the underlying theme of Sami identity in the flashbacks is thought-provoking. This is high on my list of best books read in 2014. Cross your fingers that it will be translated into English or another language you understand!



41. the Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (2014)
Tags: man book prize, family and self, state of the nation, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

The extended Ghosh family lives in a big house in Calcutta. It is 1967 and India is seeing the start of the Naxalite movement. Supratik Ghosh suddenly disappears from the house to join the movement, and through his letters we learn how they work, while we follow the rest of the family’s everyday drama and also get an insight in the family history. Why do I feel that I have read this before? Could it be because I have read both the Lowland and the God of Small Things this year? My conclusion is that writing about the Naxalite movement will get you nominated for the Booker Prize. My favourite parts of the book are the prologue, the final epilogue and the letters. The family saga was way too confusing and I don’t think I have ever used the family tree as much as in this book (well, perhaps when I read Tolstoy). A lot of it could have been cut as it was just too much and not related to the plot. The book has a lot of strong points, and it was a lot of things; funny, gruesome, compelling, boring and thought-provoking. Mukherjee is on my list of the many authors I want to read more of.  I’m curious about how it will compare to the rest of the Booker shortlist, and the book was October’s read in Clementine’s Booker readalong.

I’m currently reading the Blindness of the Heart and it is really dark and beautiful. What am I going to read next? I have no idea, but I have 980 books to choose from + a library card.

the Fox sisters.

Talking to the Dead by Barbara Weisberg (2004)
Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism

Kate was 14 and Maggie 11 in 1848, when they started hearing strange rapping in their bedroom. After a while, they realized they could communicate with the dead through the rapping. Through the communication they learnt that the spirit they were talking with had been murdered in the house they lived. Bewildered neighbours came to watch the seances. Rumour about the sisters’ abilities spread, and they are today known as the symbols of modern spiritualism.

The rapping evolved into playing of instruments, pulling of hair and slaps in the face and the spirits becoming visible. And one of the spirits that often visited them was Benjamin Franklin. Many famous people met the sisters throughout the years, even the Presidents’ wives. All through this, the girls were put to many tests, often scandalously only in their undergarments.  Their much older sister, Leah, was the one who arranged the seances and probably took most of the money as well. But it was the spirits that demanded that they should hold the meetings.

Although the girls were famous, their lives were sad. Both had broken hearts after love affairs gone wrong, and they both got addicted to alcohol and drugs. A few years before her death, Maggie confessed that it all had been a hoax and she travelled around showing how they made the raps.

It was an interesting read, and I learnt a lot about life in the late 1800s. But somehow I still felt like I couldn’t quite get under the skin of the Fox sister. I’m also glad that the book wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, and I definitely believe that it was all hoax. I would never have read this book if it weren’t for Ingalill’s biography reading circle which was about alternative lifestyles this round. I chose the Fox sisters after listening to a radio programme about spiritualism, and I was curious about how it all started. And now I know.

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.

the German Enlightenment

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (2005)
“That was the moment when he grasped that nobody wanted to use their minds. People wanted peace. They wanted to eat and sleep and have other people be nice to them. What they didn’t want to do was think.”
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a German scientist and adventurer who mapped Latin-America. He also collaborated and corresponded with another great German scientist, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855). Gauss was nicknamed the Prince of Mathematics and he also did great things for physics. 
Kehlmann has written an exciting and accessible account of their friendship and Humboldt’s travels. Yet I felt that it should be something more to this book, because it felt too light and easy. I think it is because I never got mesmerised and involved with the story as I usually do, but this time I never really connected with the story. And three days later I don’t remember much of the book. Which is weird, because it should be right up my alley.

And now it sounds like the book is awful, but it’s definitely not! I enjoyed it there and then and I definitely learnt a lot about Germany at that time in history. I just wish it was more to it.

I picked this up after reading Rose-Marie‘s glowing review, and I read it for Ingalill’s biography reading circle where this round’s theme was crossovers.

twelve.

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura (2002)
 Taro Azuma is a billionaire who grew up as a poor boy with his aunt’s family where he was treated poorly. Taro is the gossip of the Japanese community in New York as he as always been stand-offish and mysterious. Minae meets him first when she is a young girl and he is the private chauffeur to one of the big men in her father’s company. Later, when Taro is rich and Minae is a writer, she is sought out by a Japanese, Yusuke, who wants to tell her Taro’s story.

Yusuke got to know the story when he by accident or pure luck crashed into a gate of a cottage in Karuizawa, where an old maid lives. She lets him sleep in the shed and from there he swears he sees the ghost of a young girl. The maid, Fumiko, has served the same family since the war, and has known Taro from he was a kid living in the neighbouring house and until now, when she is his employee. She decides to tell him about her life, and the story of Taro and Yoko, probably because she wants it off her chest.

The prologue to this story is so long that it’s a story in itself. And then when the real story begins and takes you back over time, it’s like reading a completely different book. At first I struggled with the real story because I was so caught up in the prologue, but as the story progressed it mesmerised me. I have been spending months reading this, just a couple of pages in bed at night, because I didn’t want it to end.

The author says that this is a Japanese twist of Wuthering Heights. It’s been 10 years since I read Wuthering Heights and I don’t remember much except moors and Heathcliff (but this might also been influenced by Kate Bush). I’m going to reread Wuthering Heights as soon as possible, and then I might (but probably not) write a note on the two books.

This is also a tough competitor to the prettiest book in my collection. Just look at the cover(s). And it was the thing which caught my eye and made me buy it (yes, I always judge the book by its cover). The paper is glossy and the book is full of black and white pictures of the places in the story. And dividing it in two makes it a lot easier to carry it around because it’s nearly 900 pages long.

Did I mention that this book is great?

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.

one.

the Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
 Meet the Lamberts; the parents, Enid and Alfred, and their grown children Denise, Chip and Gary. Alfred has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and he’s getting worse. Enid wants all the kids and Gary’s family back home to St. Jude for one last Christmas, but this turns out to be hard to achieve.

Chip is dumped by his girlfriend, Julia, on the day his parents come visit and he leaves them to run after her. Instead he runs into her husband, who offers him a job in Lithuania. Gary is being overrun by his wife in daily battles and their kids usually side with Caroline. And there’s no way Caroline’s going to celebrate Christmas in St. Jude. And then there’s Denise, the little sister, who is a recognised chef and beautiful. But she has a tendency to fall for her bosses and/or their beautiful wives.

Are any of the Lamberts likeable? I found them more dislikeable by every book, and I guess that is one of the reasons why I liked the book so much. And there is so much dark humour in here. My absolute favourite part was when Enid and Alfred were on their cruise and they were seated with a Norwegian and a Swedish couple. That conversation was so spot on, especially with the whole Norwegian-Swedish rivalry. Hilarious!

I can’t believe I waited so long after reading Freedom, before I read this one. I seem to keep the good authors on my shelves for years and I get anxious if I have read all the works by them. Thus, I need to buy more Franzen books!