Although Sidney is a lot more understated than he is in the PBS series "Grantchester" (which is really good, by the way), this book was interesting anAlthough Sidney is a lot more understated than he is in the PBS series "Grantchester" (which is really good, by the way), this book was interesting and Sidney was, too.
This is a series of stories that are crime mysteries. But they fit with Sidney's status as a clergyman that they are also morality tales. For example, about revenge, about honor and reputation, about obsession, about control of life and death, fidelity, etc. This weaves in very nicely to Sidney's musings and conflicts about his sleuthing in view of his priesthood. Sidney also develops slowly through the stories. At first, he seems a bit Miss Marple - highly polite and refined. That's fine. But, further on, there arise the glimmers of love life, issues of conscience, sorrows of the past, tolerance, kindness, and really youthful energy. Sidney is a young professional, not quite like any other detective book hero I've "met".
I think I'd like to read more of these because I want to see how Mr. Runcie makes Sidney, not necessarily because I find the mysteries so compelling.
Oh . . . these are really good on the environment of the 50's --- the mores, the politeness, the sexism, classism, etc. Enjoy! ...more
I did not read every one of these essays, but I loved the ones I did read. These were the essays on more general topics - on the young man reading theI did not read every one of these essays, but I loved the ones I did read. These were the essays on more general topics - on the young man reading the classics, on the nature of the sentence, on evil.
The marvel of good essay writing is their language and style, their meandering and diction, their side trips. They make me scratch my head and say I didn't understand a word and, yet, I loved the reading of them. They also have the marks of erudition and, often, erudition on display, but without any sense of self-love. Rather, they express joy and take the reader into that joy on a companionable, sometimes serious, ride into the country.
Mr. Gass' essays have all these qualities that I love. ...more
I'd never read any Hugh Walpole and bought this book on a whim because the scenario is St. Petersburg at the time the Revolution begins and, well, becI'd never read any Hugh Walpole and bought this book on a whim because the scenario is St. Petersburg at the time the Revolution begins and, well, because I liked the cover.
I enjoyed the book very much. But I was uncertain exactly what I was reading. There are, in a way, two novels going on side-by-side. One is a novel in which the the beginnings of the Revolution, the very edge of things before tremendous change, is the protagonist. And this was very interesting, indeed, from the absolute quiet of the city, the indifference (Oh, that's a little thing going on across the river. . .), the incursion of change through marches and then violence, the merger of the times of old and new orders, the involvement of people in events when the whole basis of their lives was to change, etc. I thought, however, that the portentous image of the Neva River as a metaphor for lurking disaster and dinosaurish conquest was overdone, melodramatic, and just plain dull.
The second novel is about the narrator and the Markovitch family. Here there are three narrative threads. Vera's love; Nina's confusion; and the odd, awful playing out of the cat and mouse game between Nicolai and Uncle Andrei. The first two, in particular the first, were the most interesting. The third was leading up to a foregone conclusion shadowed in an earlier part of the book. It was not psychologically well enough done to hold my interest deeply. If one views the two men as one entity, however, one can appreciate the relationship between the two halves without expecting a great deal more development of each of the two characters. (I thought the younger of the two English boarders was the interesting one as he changes so greatly, and his youth is so well portrayed.)
Again in this book, as I saw in The Generations of Winter by Vasilii Aksyonov, there are connections between non-Russian westerners and Russian literature. In "Generations", a westerner judges Russians by his knowledge of the literature. In Walpole's book, a westerner is accused at least twice of Dostoyevskian attitudes. This is interesting - the use of Russian literature as a gauge for knowing a country or person. ...more
I thought this book was quite interesting. It's overview of plurality was not doctrinaire, and Prof. Kwok's purpose, I thought, was to provide food f I thought this book was quite interesting. It's overview of plurality was not doctrinaire, and Prof. Kwok's purpose, I thought, was to provide food for thought - even though I think she's clearly on the "leftie" side of the debate.
Here's a couple of comments or questions/comments. First, in chapter two, I like very much the lesson on misappropriation of different cultures or traditions (e.g., Native American) under the guise of honoring or benefiting from the fruits of diversity. I had never heard someone actually say that out loud. And I thought the discussion was particularly forceful because the professor was criticizing some of the layers of Western-style feminism. This discussion also spills over into the area of the "righteous critique" of what we generalize as oppression (e.g., the head scarf). So, I liked that kind of self-criticism.
My second comment is about something more troubling for me because I perceive an inconsistency and relativism. On page 14, the professor cites to Dianne Eck when she writes pluralism is not relativism, but is an " encounter of commitments". however, in the chapter on polydoxy on page 70, she writes about scholars who explore the notion that Christianity has no monopoly on revelation and that "divinity should be understood in terms of multiplicity, open-endedness, and relationality". Here, I think she reports on a point of view that does make pluralism relativistic and that seems to say that one religion is, indeed, as good as another. Of course, God is beyond us totally, and we have only the sliver of a sliver of a glimpse through the tiniest gap in a partly open door. So, in that way, the statement makes sense if multiplicity, open-endedness, and relationality are our attempts to understand this beyondness. But, really, where does Jesus fit into this? If Jesus is God's revelation, how do we accept this polydoxy? I realize that Kwok's thinkers come out of post-colonial world in which Christianity is the governor's religion. But I'm not seeing how polydoxy should discount a truth. And Prof. Kwok holds, I believe, a post in the Episcopal Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Am I misunderstanding something about Kwok's presentation? Is she just talking about behavior and not any kind of "doxy" (!) at all?
Third, I'm afraid that I find the discussion regarding multiple or hybrid identity to be somewhat b.s. Identity is complicated enough without this type of definitional tool that splits us up into more pieces. In fact, I believe the persons Prof. Kwok cites to are simply complicating the statement that identity is complicated. That is, I have one identity that is always with me, but that I react and act in ways that are appropriate to the environment I'm in or that are the expressions of a search for the appropriate way to express integrity....more
Well, I really like Mr. Cornwell's books. I've read about King Alfred, King Arthur, and now about Agincourt. Agincourt is not Mr. C's greatest book. TWell, I really like Mr. Cornwell's books. I've read about King Alfred, King Arthur, and now about Agincourt. Agincourt is not Mr. C's greatest book. The arc of the story is ok and uses Mr. C's stock of young man in trouble and maturing. But the characters are just not compelling. The moral problem of the death of Sara the Lollard is good, and the resolution is welcome and satisfactory.
The real hero of the book is the Battle of Agincourt. I could have, however, done with far less battle. There are only so many slashes and stabs and spurts of blood that I need to satisfy me. But I must say that now I get what Agincourt was and how it unrolled on the ground and why the French called it the unfortunate day.
The book's chapters where the scene is the siege of Harfleur were much more interesting to me though the warfare and suffering were so dreary and less well known. I was reminded of Zoe Oldenbourg's novel on the First Crusade which also shows the filth and disease of medieval warfare - though Mr. Oldenbourg's book trumps Mr. C's on filth, disease, death, and bleakness. Since Mr. C. had to invent the tunneling/sapping story in the Harfleur chapters, perhaps his imagination was more stimulated and his bondage to historical and/or scholarly detail loosened.
As always, I am impressed by Mr. C's knowledge and research. And I will certainly read more of his books of which there is, fortunately, a wide selection. ...more
This is a rather charming and humorous book. The alternating anxiety and anger of the protagonist are convincingly narrated. His desire and plans to rThis is a rather charming and humorous book. The alternating anxiety and anger of the protagonist are convincingly narrated. His desire and plans to reach for the standard machismo values of the injured male are understandable, but ridiculous considering his bourgeois station in life. Best of all is the general cultural and familial atmosphere that minimizes, cajoles, strokes, and heals in what I think is a particularly southern European way. Add to all this a number of wonderful subsidiary characters - like the father-in-law and the maid - and you have a lovely short, but packed, read.
I am not sure why the author did not publish this piece in his lifetime. It was discovered 25 years after his death amongst papers in a trunk. I simply have not read anything else by Mr. EdQ and therefore have no way to make a judgment on that question. But my judgment on the book is that I liked it. ...more
I had read "Generations of Winter" in the 90's close to when it came out. Many scenes from this book remained with me. Now I've read it the second timI had read "Generations of Winter" in the 90's close to when it came out. Many scenes from this book remained with me. Now I've read it the second time and enjoyed it again. I think its weakness is the use of the "saga format", and its strength is the environment of the story. But I also think it is an interesting to think about it in terms of Russian literature generally - although I admit I am a little tentative on this front and fear I am being over-creative.
"Generations of Winter" is a saga about a Moscow family in the 20's during the NEP period and in the Stalinist 30's and in World War II. The cast of characters includes people associated with the family by friendship and marriage.
I usually find family sagas difficult. The reason is that so much time must be covered and so much narrative expended and parceled out among individuals. Although the story can be exciting in a cinematic way, the characters lose some depth. I think actually that this is true in a way in GoW. What remains exciting, however, is the ever fascinating ambience of the developing Soviet Union. This provides a new way of regarding character. That is, persons behave in ways that the environment determine in order to survive and no matter what their inner scruples or fears may be. This is where odd, seemingly two-dimensional behavior may arise --- from stoicism and fear, the exaltation of some family members along with the arrests of others, the intense loyalty to Russia, and the ambivalent attitude toward Josef Stalin, known to be a thug, but respected as someone beyond the ordinary human categories. And when the USSR still existed, this ambivalent attitude in literature towards leadership and communism could be explained as part of authorial survival technique. This is enough to keep one going in this book. Plus Mr. A. is a great storyteller with great momentum.
As to Russian literature, I wonder why there are the echoes of Tolstoy's War and Peace in this book. For example, one character is compared to Natasha Rostov at her first dance; another to the wounded Count Andrei. Another character remarks on the Hitler Russian campaign as paralleling the Napoleonic campaign that sets the scene for much of Tolstoy's book. There is some tactical discussion and thinking, especially by GoW's Nikita Gradov, and enough war description to echo further Tolstoy's lengthy battlefield narratives. One can even see War and Peace as a family saga about the Rostovs and those who come into contact with them.
These echoes of earlier literature are interesting to me. For me, a major gift of Russia to the West are its books and that, indeed, only its books survive as its heritage or locatable cultural identity from the past. For example, the characters in GoW live in such a fast-changing world and their morals have to accomodate to it. (And, probably, Russians had to do this throughout their history.) Perhaps this is the irony of the Gradov family home in the forest: It bridges major upheavals and remains cultured, even hermetically sealed, in an old-fashioned way. It is a place that we would want to live in a Russia imagined out of its literature. The irony is that it seems that way, but is not: one only needs to take the streetcar into town to realize that.
In this respect, the contrast between society in War and Peace and in GoW is very great. In the first book, seemingly autonomous, certainly lively individuals with lives crowded by circumstance act out history. In the other, autonomy is a sham or enjoyed only in retreat, and life circumstances include the enmity and/or indifference and/or whims of, not a government, but a system of control driven to the edges of ideological sanity and victimizing both its heroes and its enemies. In this connection, the literature of the past is totally divorced from the present day and meaningless. ...more
What is not to like about Brother Cadfael? He is intelligent, canny, courageous, and faithful, a lover of God, his Abbey, and a student and lover of What is not to like about Brother Cadfael? He is intelligent, canny, courageous, and faithful, a lover of God, his Abbey, and a student and lover of all kinds of people. I suppose there were many independent-minded monks in 12th century England, which is the period in which the B.C. mysteries occur, and we have Ms. Peters to thank for giving the past a kind of living voice.
The Benediction of Brother Cadfael consists of the first two novels in the B.C. mystery series as well as essays about the Benedictines, Shrewsbury and Shropshire, and the historical context of the books - the years-long war between two "successors" of Henry I - namely, King Stephen (Henry's cousin) and the Empress Maud (his daughter).
I will not give spoilers. After all, these books are crime mysteries. The first novel, A Morbid Taste for Bones, is an excellent introduction to the character of B.C. In the book, B.C.'s Abbey sends a delegation of monks to Wales to obtain the reputedly miraculous bones of Saint Winifred. E.P. very nicely portrays the medieval feeling for the preciousness of the physical relics of saints. This is something that the modern reader needs. She also nicely portrays the conflict between English and Welsh and the individual humor, arrogance, and smarminess of the company of monks. Of course, there is a murder to be solved. Of course, there are young lovers in difficulties who are a benchmark, I think, of the B.C. books. And E.P. portrays B.C. in his endearing roles as older mentor and affectionate friend to the young; and the young as stalwart, open, strong, troubled, courageous and respectful. The book ends with a humorous, ironic, and ingenious "translation" of the disputed relics out of Wales.
The second book is One Corpse Too Many. Its context is warfare, specifically the siege and capture of Shrewsbury in the war between Stephen and Maud. The siege ends with what we would call a horrendous war crime, but it is to E.P.'s credit that, although it is a sad and awful event, she portrays it as "business-as-usual" for the times. E.P. also introduces us to a trial by combat in which the fight to the death, on the part of one of the fighters, is an act of loving self-sacrifice as well as a bid for a subtle, hushed justice for one death in the guise of vindicating another. In this book, the mystery is complex. Again, B.C. is ingenious. Again, there are young lovers in peril. But also a large part of the book is about suspicion of one person developing into realization of truth and friendship.
The photographs are quite nice. They gave me an idea really how the area of Shropshire might have looked in the 12th century. This idea was developed also with E.P.'s verbal descriptions in the books and with my own memories of England which remains amazingly rural. I thought the essays were nice, but that the essays on Shrewsbury and the history of the period were a little too long. That's a very small fault. Also, one can fill in one's own context - as, there was no coffee in 12th century England, lots of people couldn't read, one had to walk places or, if lucky, ride a horse which had to be groomed and fed, etc.
One doesn't have to read every one of the Cadfael books. But I think that dipping into the series is rewarding....more
I did not find The Narrow Road to the Deep North to be very engaging. It is one of those books that says, ultimately, "You live and then you die, andI did not find The Narrow Road to the Deep North to be very engaging. It is one of those books that says, ultimately, "You live and then you die, and that's all there is". I do not find this message particularly interesting.
Essentially, the book is the life story of one Dorrigo Evans, from a poor family in Tasmania. It takes him forward to a very fine medical education, to society, to true love (but not for his wife), to the POW slavery of the Japanese railway project in Thailand, to a distinguished career as a surgeon, to a certain celebrity because of his wartime experiences, to conflicts between family duty but essential family emptiness, to a death by the happenstance of accident. Along the way, he is faced by two ironic and sad discoveries - the true identity of a certain soldier beaten to death in the war and the discovery that his true love, thought to be dead, is alive. He decides to say or do nothing about either, and ultimately they are of a piece with the meaningless universe that this book inhabits. He really has no depth of life despite his early love of literature and his upstandingness as a leader and "medical man" among the POW slaves.
What I found to be the most unique parts of the book were Mr. Flanagan's narrative reports on the post-War lives of the Japanese and Korean military officers and personnel who had been in charge of the section of the railway that Dorrigo Evans worked at. These occur in the third part of the book, and when they began, I thought that the book might take off. But they simply do not hold their ground and appear to be a footnote - unless Mr. F. means to say that the banality of their lives is on a par with Dorrigo Evans'.
I think that Mr. Flanagan may have wanted to write a tribute to the Australian POWs who died and suffered and continued to suffer in the post-War times. I suppose he's done that by writing this book in memory of his father who was one of them. However, he just has not, in my opinion, written a book that stands on its own as a work of art. In my opinion, it's just not very beautiful or wonderful or even memorable....more
I think that Ms. Li is an excellent writer. This is the first of her books that I have read. I was soon enthralled by the great individuality of the cI think that Ms. Li is an excellent writer. This is the first of her books that I have read. I was soon enthralled by the great individuality of the circumstances of each character. And I was humbled by my possible answers to the questions that I think Ms. Li raises.
It is hard for me as a Eurocentric American to penetrate a society whose cohesion is based on a pervasive organization like the Communist Party and not on democratic individuality and concepts of rights. Ms. Li does not, in my view, intend to address this contrast. Rather, she takes the society based on an overriding institution as a given. She then tries to portray how individuals live individual lives with individual emotions, wants, loves, quirks, obsessions, defects, and so forth in that society's context. Some of these persons are real vagrants, like the old Hua couple; some are vagrants because they are displaced from one old context into another, like Teacher Gu, or even like the Gu daughter, formerly a member of the Red Guard in the Cultural Revolution; some because they are pariahs, like the man hired to bury Shan, or the young man with sexual obsessions, or the disabled girl whose disability is ultimately the result of politics; and those like Ms. Kai who try to act politically.
Given such a mix in such a context, the themes are multitude: poverty, corruption, cynicism, innocence (e.g., Ms. Kai's husband, Han), love, despair, endurance, alienation, disaffection, and obliviousness. But the question that the Western reader must face is "What would you do?" Here Ms. Li comes to where I live. For she asks me even more directly: Is my individual ability to live, eat, seek a personal "home" contentment, etc., more important than individual political freedom? And even more deeply: Is there such a thing as integrity? That is, was Ms. Kai a selfish fool? Was she a monster to choose idealism --- in an ultimately, distorted and stupid cause --- over the "home" demands of motherhood? In sum, Ms. Li graphically portrays the moral chaos of the totalitarian society in which every person, me included, would fall into a final and absolute kind of vagrancy --- a world without signposts of human meaning.
This book is a keeper. I will definitely read more,of Ms. Li's work....more
I thought this was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I read it after I'd read "The Book of Strange New Things" also by Mr. Faber. I wiI thought this was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I read it after I'd read "The Book of Strange New Things" also by Mr. Faber. I will definitely look into reading more of his work as it gives the reader pleasureful involvement and puzzlement.
Probably I needn't worry about spoilers because everyone I talked to has apparently already seen the movie. Nonetheless, I'll be careful. (I haven't seen the movie and didn't even know there was one.)
I was very interested in the portrayal of the protagonist Isserley. She is mentally and physically anomalous and she rages at the fate that her circumstances have forced her to choose. Nonetheless, she is awake to the marvels of our world and still capable of love. I sympathized with her very much. I pitied her. I cared about what happened to her.
That I did so is a testament to Mr. Faber's art because, viewed in a common way, Isserley is someone who should repel and disgust me. Mr. F's power to make me care for her gives this book authority; or, rather, gives Mr. F. authority as an artist. I suppose that Mr. F. could make us sympathize with Adolf Hitler. Which leads to the question: What exactly is our sense of moral judgment?
There are other fine layers to this book. For example, the details, the narrative and plot, the drive and momentum of the story, the suspense, are excellent. And ideas float through the book. Should humans regard animals in a moral light? Or are we humans no better than "animals"? And therefore, can a pig, for instance, be morally superior to us? Is our morality pliable and ultimately non-existent because Isserley is sympathetic to us? Or do we have a power of reconciliation and sympathy that transcends disgust? The beauty of the posing of these questions is that they arise implicitly out of the story's art.
This is a very fine book, indeed, and written by a real literary artist.
I was interested in these portrayals of family life as affected by the Soviet system of registration and the smallness of living quarters. I also founI was interested in these portrayals of family life as affected by the Soviet system of registration and the smallness of living quarters. I also found interesting the portrayal of family life without moral foundation and invested with cynicism and mutual parasitism. The voices of the protagonists in these three stories were sad, rabid, and funny, changing tone in a split second. On the whole, though, I found the style eventually dulled me, as if I had eaten a whole box of candy at one sitting. The obsessiveness of the people in the stories exhausted me. ...more
This is the first of Mr. Faber's books that I've read. And I am now a fan. Do not miss this book!
I don't want to write any spoilers, but I think it'sThis is the first of Mr. Faber's books that I've read. And I am now a fan. Do not miss this book!
I don't want to write any spoilers, but I think it's fair to say that the hero is a Christian minister who gets the opportunity to travel to another planet outside our solar system to evangelize the "aliens" that have been encountered there. On the planet, the hero meets fellow sojourners from Earth and lives in a home base or complex built in a very earthly style, rather like industrial parks with large parking lots. He spends his work week, as it were, out in the field ministering to his parish who turn out to be very faithful, dear and gentle Christians. They have keen hopes arising out of a biological/genetic predicament that has probably shaped their culture.
But the creative and imaginative "science fiction" qualities of this book are not the underlying story. That story is, in my view, a story of two kinds of love and two kinds of loyalty that must resolve or compete in the protagonist's life. In this respect, this book is a tale of profound religious love and work in a community; and also a tale of dangerous separation from an individual, faithful loyalty to the individual, frustration, anger, and sacrifice. About this, I feel I should not say more and spoil things for others. The ultimate question, however, is whether these kinds of love can be reconciled and come to fruition without stinting the one or the other.
When I wrote the words "science fiction" above, I put them in quotes because this book is not about rocket ships, the wonder of alien places, fabulous technology, etc. It is a human story with a very comprehensible setting. The hero's human companions on the planet are geeks, loners, men, women, hard workers whom we might find anywhere in an industrial park in the desert --- perhaps like the people sent out to build the Hoover Dam or the Glen Canyon Dam. Each is very finely portrayed. Each has his/her secrets, back story, etc. Each must respond to the protagonist's unique quality of faith in our post-faith or post-Christian age. Additionally, coming to know the indigenous population is a suspenseful journey as not all questions about them or their motives or way of life are answered. In this sense, Mr. F. did play with me as he worked on my own expectations that arose from my view of sci-fi conventions. In this sense, I would say that Mr. F. has an artful way of dragging his reader into the experience of reading his book such that, in some way, the reader becomes part of the story or the art.
[Later addition: By now, I have also read Mr. F's "Under the Skin". Also remarkable.]...more
This book has one nice meditation on page 68 and a nice description of the "in-between" person a few pages later. Also, its discussion of how we viewThis book has one nice meditation on page 68 and a nice description of the "in-between" person a few pages later. Also, its discussion of how we view others or ethnic issues is good, but the information is taken from another writer and is not the author's. The same is true of the discussion of high-context and low-context groups.
The metaphor of the burning bush is impossible to construe. Mr. Law conujured it out of the Bible and twisted it up in an attempt to provide theological cover for his attempts at solving problems in multiculturalism.
Otherwise, this book is self-promotion by a widely retained facilitator of multicultural dialog. He wrote it because, in my opinion, he thought he should write a book.
I think that often consultants create a theory of the problems that they are called on to help manage and then they become essentials of the process they devise. They love to talk. Essentially, I think this book is all about talk-talk. ...more
What really strikes me about this last "novel" by Herman Melville is how tongue-in-cheek it is. Granted it hales from a time when authors and other edWhat really strikes me about this last "novel" by Herman Melville is how tongue-in-cheek it is. Granted it hales from a time when authors and other educated people would have learned Latin, it is nonetheless amazing how every speaker holds forth or argues in the long and complex periods of Latin rhetoric. It was a pleasure to read syntactically, but also the artificiality of the language set a nonserious tone that was off putting. What was Mr. M. really trying to communicate here? I suspect, but do not really know, that he was presenting a view of the world as trickster and absurd. Hence, the man with the coonskin hat speaking with the subordinate clauses of a professor. Hence, the "Confidence Man" - or "Men" - speaking in terms of plain confidence. The trickery or chicanery is inherent in the speaker, the subject, and the syntax. Somehow, I think we are dealing with an immense cynicism.
The queasiness that the style creates is enhanced by the negativism of the conversations and scenes on board the steamboat as it travels from St. Louis toward New Orleans. The first is the almost automatic and brutally expressed distrust of the reality of Black Guinea's disability, not to mention the low regard in which the the deaf and dumb man in white is held. Other topics are the indenture of boys to be transported for work on the farms of the Mississippi; the hatred and killing of Indians; the subject of slavery, itself barely touched on in the inflammatory period during which "The Confidence-Man" was published; and last the arguments and speech of the disciple of the liberal/Libertarian man whose philosophy tolerates the diminishment of others while its selfishness is clothed in twisted rationalizations of pseudo-altruism. At the end of the book, one expects the old and trusting man, though also somewhat gullible and naif, to be robbed. What a fitting bookend for a story that begins with the deaf and dumb man with his signs that interject idea of Christian virtue into the rough discourse of other passengers.
Mr M. portrays a "dirty" America through the metaphor of this sad steamboat, a kind of ship of fools. I am not surprised that he stopped writing fiction after "The Confidence-Man" was published. And I am not surprised that it did not do well when it came out.
I liked this book very much, but find it difficult to review. There is an arc of plot. That is, there is a beginning, middle, and end. But the protagoI liked this book very much, but find it difficult to review. There is an arc of plot. That is, there is a beginning, middle, and end. But the protagonist is not a person of great character or personality. She is, indeed, an unformed landscape. The form that she finds is ordinary with an ordinary life. But her transformation to form is an interesting journey from passivity through one attempt at meaning through relationship all the way to middle-class settled life. The ending seems anticlimactic, except that the protagonist is likeable and courageous amidst her fecklessness. Perhaps this book is the journey of any ordinary unformed person against the backdrop of routine and habit. Most of us are that person. The backdrop seems dull, but that does not mean that the journey is dull, that life is not intensely important to the individual.
Very briefly, the heroine is a Norwegian customs officer who lives above the Arctic Circle in an isolated village near the sea in that area where Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia come together. National boundaries exist on maps, but have no reality in the expanse of country. The irony of her job as a customs officer is evident. It is as if her form is bounded by the plywood walls of job, motherhood (on which she does not seem very keen), two marriages, village living, and regular ski trips to the lighthouse. I think that a specific event brings her to the realization of the rickety nature of what gives her life shape. She makes a journey below the Arctic Circle for the first time in search of something with more steadiness, at least in her mind. Not meeting with success, she returns to the village and finds her form by happenstance.
All this is put together very well to the point that the writer has the heroine bring her customs uniform with her on what I have described as the trip below the Arctic Circle. The events are so tiny, so understated, yet with great effects on individual lives. Even in a routine life, the human heart is not routine.