The Drawing of the Three kicks off just seven hours after The Gunslinger ended. The Gunslinger Roland Deschain is lying on the beach after his encountThe Drawing of the Three kicks off just seven hours after The Gunslinger ended. The Gunslinger Roland Deschain is lying on the beach after his encounter with the man in black. And true to Stephen King, the action starts right away. Some weird-looking sort of lobster is carefully approaching him and Roland seriously underestimates it. Which means that on page 10, Roland has lost not only two of his fingers on his right hand but also one of his big toes… Being on an unfriendly beach with hardly any water or food and a bleeding hand and foot, would dampen everyone’s spirits but Roland is a determined chap and of course, he soldiers right on, following his instinct down the beach.
And finds a door. Just standing there. Right on the beach. No wall around it. Just a door. And only visible from one side.
It turns out that through doors like this, Roland can get in touch with the people who are to become parts of his quartet. He encounters three doors, each one leading to New York, each one leading to a new person. And through these doors, he meets up with the people, the man in dark foretold he would meet: The prisoner (Eddie), The Lady of Shadows (Odetta/Detta) and The Pusher (Jack).
I loved The Drawing of the Three. It just sucked me right in and took me along for the ride and it has some terrific scenes. When Roland meets Eddie and has to help him avoid being busted leaving a plane with a lot of drugs, priceless! It’s so funny reading about these two trying to orchestrate an escape plan for Eddie with Roland not really knowing our world or the English language quite enough to completely know what’s going on – but being shrewd enough to be aware that things are not going the way they should if he is to have his way and get Eddie to join and help him.
Despite the issues Roland has with getting Eddie back through the door, it’s nothing compared to the issues he faces with Odetta and Jack. And the battle he has to fight with his own poisoned body. But the gunslinger is nothing if not able to just keep on and on, put mind over matter and do what has to be done. He is tougher than Clint Eastwood ever looked and I do believe that if he dies before reaching the tower, his dead body will just get up and walk on. This being a King novel, that’s not altogether unlikely!
As usual, King knows exactly how he not only gets the action going but also keep turning up the pace so you just have to keep on reading and reading to find out what happens with these four characters and how Roland handles them all. King also has some nice comments on how our culture and society has evolved. At one point, Roland gets some medicine. He pays for it with an expensive Rolex watch – and the shop owner is flabbergasted that he pays for this cheap medicine with that kind of watch. But the thing is, in Roland’s world, that medicine is the difference between life and death so of course Roland is going to think it’s expensive. I don’t think medicine should be expensive – everyone should be able to afford getting what they need to be well – but I do think that this scene shows how the way we value things are sometimes a bit skewed.
I still really like how our world and Roland’s world exist parallel in some ways but still different from each other. How some things have overlapped – like Hey Jude, mentioned in both The Gunslinger and this book. But I’m curious about how King pulls it all off because I still have so many questions. How come there was three doors leading into three people, the three people who Roland needed to start forming his Ka-tet? In the first book, Jake died in our world and then appeared in Roland’s world. And now Roland can walk through a door and appear in our world? How are they connected? I guess I’ll just have to read on and see how King solves it all.
The Drawing of the Three definitely kicks The Dark Tower series up a notch. I liked The Gunslinger but not only was this a better book, it also made me even more interested in reading this series, even more interested in finding out what the dark tower is and what happens if and when Roland finally catches up to The Man in Black....more
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
What a strange book. Or well, maybe it wouldn’t be all that strange if it wasn’tThe man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
What a strange book. Or well, maybe it wouldn’t be all that strange if it wasn’t because this book is written by Stephen King – and it really doesn’t feel like a Stephen King novel.
But let’s start with the beginning. In his introduction, King writes that a lot of people who have read lots and lots of his books, still have never read The Dark Tower series – and that’s true for me too. I’ve read It, The Stand, Gerald’s Game, The Green Mile, Carrie, Under the Dome, Christine, Rose Madder, Bag of Bones and more, but even though I’ve been a King fan for maybe 20 years, I have never read this – or even attempted to. As a young teenager, I looked at the first volumes at my local library. I think I thought that the rest of the series was always rented out – or that the library hadn’t bought them or something. Years later, I realized that King actually hadn’t finished them. And then the car accident, and then he started writing them again. Still I didn’t read them. My boyfriend and I talked about buying the series for several years and finally he got them. And he started reading them – even though he’s not really a King fan. But then this read-along came and I thought, here’s my chance. And now I’m reading them!
This post is my review and my responds to the read-along questions, all cozily mixed up. I’m trying not to spoil anything but with this being in part a read-along post, there might be some spoilerish comments.
In The Gunslinger, we follow Roland, the last gunslinger, who’s traveling in pursuit of the man in black. Initially, we don’t know much about either of them. However, since I have read The Stand, my immediate reaction is that the man in black is Roland Flagg and therefore, evil incarnated. However, as we read the book, Roland is the one doing all the bad things and for me, this gave the book a very interesting twist. We follow Roland and sympathize with him – but he commits some really horrendous deeds and even though these are blamed on the man in black, it’s still Roland’s doing. This actually gives us two villains in a way – even though it’s hard to feel any negativity towards Roland. If anything, the man in black comes across as the tempter or trickster who somehow creates these scenarios for Roland which forces his hand. However, we mostly have Roland’s words for this so throughout the book, we’re left wondering.
As the novel progresses, however, we get more glimpses into Roland’s life, especially his childhood. We learn of his growing up and being trained as a gunslinger, how his father became a cuckold. It seems that Roland grew up in some sort of chivalry system where he was trained – and where at one point, every boy has to stand up to his teacher. Roland does this at a very young age – forever separating from his friends by doing so and in the way he does it, he shows he might have more cunning than raw physical power.
One of the most interesting things for me in this book, is a boy, Roland meets along the way. The boy, Jake, actually saves Roland – but he seems lost and he keeps having memories of New York, although they are slipping away. He clearly comes from another world and Roland is fascinated by this. Jake, however, seems to be a pawn in the power play between Roland and the man in dark – and again, it seems unclear who the real villain is. And I guess that’s kind of the point – the world isn’t black and white, there are more to it and sometimes, if you want to overcome great evil, you have to do great evil yourself.
The world this takes place in, seems like an Old West kind of world with small towns with saloons with piano players in them and a gunslinger academy. At the same time, there’s another world, the world Jake comes from, which is more like our world. It seems strange that this more technologically advanced world feels like it’s the past, that the world of the gunslinger has moved on from this. I guess that will become more clear in the volumes that follow.
As I mentioned earlier, King’s writing style in this is very different from normal. He usually starts his books of with a bang – something happens and you just have to read one to figure out exactly what happened, who did it or why it happened. This one kind of feels like it never really gets started. We follow Roland traveling across a landscape, a desert, and then across mountains. There are a few high-paced action scenes but it’s a slow moving novel, compared to King’s other novels. This weird alternate cowboy fantasy universe also feels very different from King’s other works that for the most part takes place in our world, the present day world at the time the novels were published. This is so different – but so far, I’m intrigued. Especially by the strong hints about what’s to come – some kind of crossover between our world and Roland’s world. I can’t wait to see how Roland will act if he arrives in our world!
I seem to remember that King sees the Dark Tower series as one huge novel and this novel definitely feels like a slow start to a huge novel with an incredibly rich storyline. I’m really looking forward to seeing where King will take me in the next books!...more
Coincidentally, I began reading this book on July 13th, 2012. I had timed my reading of books about Tour de France and cycling to coincide with this year’s Tour de France – but I hadn’t expected that I would start reading this book on the same day as David Millar won yet another stage in the Tour.
Millar is racing again. As everyone who follows cycling knows, he’s back in the peloton after his fall from grace – he is one of the contenders. But how did this young Scott fall so deep?
What Millar describes, is a sport where doping is the rule more than anything else. From describing his childhood and how he got started with professional cycling, doping is something he’s quickly aware of – but staying away from. He doesn’t want anything to do with it but eventually he succumbs to the pressure and starts injecting, first just with various supplements, later with the real stuff.
Millar’s story is a typical example of how ‘what’s normal’ changes. When you’re constantly living in a world where it is normal to dope and to have various tactics to avoid the doping controls, you are gradually changing your perception of normality. Slowly, Millar’s aversion towards doping lessens until his defenses against it, is completely gone.
Still, throughout it all he claims that he never viewed the victories won when doped, as real. ‘If I won doped then it meant nothing, I was very clear on that.’ (p. 174). But his changed perception of normality as well as his curiosity get the better of him: ‘I’d proved what I could do clean – how much more could I do if I was doped?’ (p. 177). With all his struggle against it, you would have thought his first time doing EPO would have been a huge deal – instead it turned out to be something of an anticlimax. He describes it as the easiest injection he ever had and the whole procedure as very tiny process, over in a couple of minutes. Of course, he had been slowly conditioned to this through a long period and was completely used to self-injections of various supplements.
Millar comes out of it all as a crusader against doping. He wants to save his sports, he wants to make it clean and show that you are actually able to win even if you’re racing clean. And this is how he comes across in his book. As a very honest Scot who loves to race and ride his bike clean and who wants everyone else to do the same. However, I did check out a few things online while reading this book and apparently Millar has changed his story from he testified till he wrote this book. So he might be a bit of an unreliable author, there are names he doesn’t share and there might be things he doesn’t tell us. It’s hard do tell. But he does come across as very honest and the book is very interesting to read.
One of the dominating riders in this period, has of course been Lance Armstrong. Millar does say that the riders winning the big races like the Tour, the Giro and the Vuelta, were the ones using doping. However, he doesn’t say Lance doped: ‘I can’t say definitively if Lance doped or not. Yes, there are all the stories and rumours, but I never saw him dope with my own eyes. If he did dope, then, after all that he has said and done, it would be unforgivable. Certainly, his performances in the Tour were extraordinary, unprecedented, but then he’s unlike anybody I have ever met, a force of nature. /…/ He is a phenomenal human being – I would never argue against that. He lives life on a different level, controlling his world in omnipotent manner, leading by example but also be fear. His ability to motivate, based on his absolute self-belief and complete fearlessness of failure, is legendary. His own lack of fear brainwashes those around him to believe in everything he does.’ (p. 297-298). He also says that the riders riding alongside Lance, were for the most part taken for doping when no longer riding with Lance – and several of these are the ones now accusing Lance of doping. I guess we’ll know eventually if he did dope or not what with the current investigation going on – although I rather doubt that anti-doping will ever get this period of professional cycling completely under control.
Still, this is not a book about Lance. It’s a book about one man’s love of the sport of cycling, and luckily, this shines through throughout the book – except for these instances where doping has cast such a dark shadow over the sport that Millar plans on never riding again.
For a lover of professional cycling and the Tour de France, there’s plenty of good stuff in this book. In fact, it’s a really interesting book and definitely worth reading to get an inside look on the doped years of professional cycling as well as David Millar’s career and the portraits he gives of other riders. I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote about wearing the yellow jersey in theTour de France: ‘I wasn’t wearing the yellow jersey; the yellow jersey was gracing me.’ (p. 127)....more
Denmark is a country where people use bikes a lot - both for transportation and exercise. So when Bjarne Riis, a modest man of very few words, in 1996Denmark is a country where people use bikes a lot - both for transportation and exercise. So when Bjarne Riis, a modest man of very few words, in 1996 won the world's toughest cycling race, the whole country went nuts. Huge crowds of people stood along the route he was driven from the airport to Tivoli Copenhagen, celebrating. Some years later, he admitted to using EPO and other performance enhancing drugs, and just like that he went from hero to villain. Even though everyone riding back in those days, were on EPO and his admission came just shortly after his entire team from those days had admitted to the same. But in Denmark, everyone felt betrayed and it has taken a lot of work for Riis, to get back on the nation's good side. This book is about his life - from his childhood, riding his bike as hard as he could, partly to be able to spend time with his father, who was partly broken because of the eldest son drowning in the neighbor's pool by accident. The accident also caused the parents to divorce and split Bjarne Riis and his brother up. We follow him as he fight to become a professional - which is hard work. But he gets some lucky breaks and slowly works his way up as a rider, becoming better and better, finally culminating in the 1996 Tour de France win. After that, things don't always go as planned - especially not in the 1997 race where we all remember him throwing his specially made bike away after it failed him and it was a de-throned champion who rolled into the streets of Paris that year. But he stuck to it, rode several years after this and still won some great victories. And when injury stopped him, he took some time off figuring out what he wanted to do afterwards. Again, sort of by chance, he becomes the owner of his own team and decides to make it the best in the world - and succeed by implementing new tactics, new strategies and new training methods. Alongside his story of his professional cycling career, Riis tells about his private life, his first marriage with Mette and later, his falling in love with Anne Dorthe Tanderup, one of Denmark's best handball players, whom he met at OL in Atlanta, his divorce from Mette and later marriage to Anne Dorthe - as well as about his 6 sons. I really like how kind he is to Mette, his ex-wife, how kind he talks about her and how he puts all the blame of their divorce on himself. The book is co-written with a Danish sports journalist who has written about other Danish sports personalities. Especially in the beginning, this is a very uneven book, jumping around from paragraph to pararaph and rather poorly written. This however, improves as the book progresses - or maybe it improves as the events get more interesting. I don't like the use of present tense throughout in the book, especially not since it jumps in time, begins in 2007, then goes back in time and moves up. Most times, it feels honest account of his life, his professional career, his personal relationships, his successes and failures. But it doesn't all ring all true. He admits to taking EPO, he says it's partly because of curiosity, partly because he wants to test the best out there, partly because it's in the environment all around him. But even though he admits to it, he doesn't really credit the EPO with his victories. Instead he talks a lot about all his hard training and loosing weight and always being at the forefront of new training techniques and that being the cause of his victories, not really crediting the EPO with anything. I like the extra insights it gives into the professional cycling word, the small psychological tricks the riders use to intimidate each other, how hard it is to make it and how much it really takes if you want to win Tour de France. The book is interesting because it deals with his entire career and life - that's what gives it 4 stars - definitely not the writing....more
So if you’re looking for a book detailing the logistic issues of genocide, this is your book. 983 pages about the genocide of the Jewish people duringSo if you’re looking for a book detailing the logistic issues of genocide, this is your book. 983 pages about the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II told from the point of view of SS-officer Maximilian Aue. Yeah. What’s not to like?
Actually, quite a bit. But not as much as you would think with it being a book about an SS-officer being involved in the destruction of the Jewish race. And that was one of my issues with the book. But now, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a step back and look closer at the book itself.
Even though this is not so much a book you summarize as it is a book that makes you think, I still wants to give a quick idea of what the book is about. Maximilian Aue is a young man, working his way up in the army. He struggles to get a break but finally succeed, not least because of powerful friends. We get to follow him to Stalingrad, Auschwitz, Berlin in 1945 and other places of importance, Babi Yar for instance. Before reading this novel, I had never heard of Babi Yar which is apparently probably the largest two-day massacre during The Holocaust. It took place in a ravine close to Kiev on September 29 and 30, 1941 and 33.771 Jews were killed on these two days – and later they killed other victims too at the ravine (source: Wikipedia). It was interesting to learn about this, however, even though the book featured scenes like Aue taking a little girl by her hand, leading her down in the ravine, getting her to lay down on top of corpses and letting others shoot her, it was written in a way that didn’t move me in the least. I tried to explain this with Aue being without empathy and somewhat of a psychopath, but the problem is that Aue does appear to feel remorse at some points and to see that what he is participating in, is wrong. And since other of the soldiers participating in Babi Yar are breaking down because of what they have to do, I as the reader should feel something too. Maybe the intention is to show that the killing of the Jews became just another chore, causing a lot of logistic issues, that it all became just another new normalcy but it was too early in the book for this – as readers we need to be shocked at scenes like this and it’s a problem, if the author can’t get us to feel anything at scenes like this.
There’s a lot of questions we don’t get answered in this book, most of these because Aue is such an unreliable narrator. Delusional even. He experiences things and narrates things that can’t possible be true. And then, it turns out they are. Other things we believe to be true, but we never get confirmation. We just have to make up our own mind about Aue’s actions, his relationship with his family and his experiences – and especially about who he is. The book also raises questions about memory – how far can you trust your memory? You think you remember something, yes, but is it actually true?
Would this book be more powerful if the narrator had been a normal person, just caught up in the Nazi war machine instead of a delusional man with sexual feelings for his twin sister? Instead of a man who always resented his French mother and idolized his absent German father and therefore of course works for the promotion of the German Reich? Yes, I think it would. I think this unreliable, sick and delusional man is to easy to see as a nasty perpetrator. It’s too easy that a man like this would take his issues out on an entire people if given the chance – and Hitler’s delusions definitely gave him and others like him the chance. However, the people who was in charge of the Concentration Camps were not all twisted people like Maximilian Aue. Of course some of them was. But not all. And I think it’s a bit easy to have a man like Aue as your main protagonist and narrator when most people participating in making Hitler’s dream for Germany come true, were just ordinary people. Would it have been more horrifying then? Yes, I think so – and more true. I think his actions are to easy to dismiss because of his childhood issues and deviant sexual desires (and just to make it clear, I’m not talking about his homosexuality although that of course was deviant in the eyes of the Nazis). It would have created a whole other set of moral issues and complexities if the protagonist of a book like this, had been a completely normal man, maybe even a father, and to detail how he could justify – or at least live with – his actions.
This is one of those books which most people either love or hate. I, however, fell squarely in the middle. There are parts of it that are disgusting and parts of it that just seem wrong or too much but other parts are fascinating and it does tell the story from a point of view I at least haven’t read before. Is it a good book then? Well. For the first 350 pages or so, I really didn’t like it. Too much going back and forth between commanding officers, too much stating of military ranks. Just plain boring. And there are some linguistic parts that are so dull. Littell does gets props for mentioning Kant’s Categorial Imperative though. However, when Aue got himself to Stalingrad, it improved somewhat and it was better for most of the remaining 600 pages. Will I recommend it to others, then? Not sure. It’s not for the weak-hearted, definitely. It is interesting if you are interested in the World War II, in what makes people able to perform atrocities. But it’s not a good book so don’t expect that. It has created a lot of controversy so it can be worth reading to know what the fuzz is about too.
There are so many accounts from the point of view of the victims, especially the Jewish victims. And that is exactly as it should be. But it’s good that there are books written from the other point of view as well, I think. Attempting to give us the point of view of the perpetrators of this series of horrendous crimes, maybe trying to explain how it got so far out of hand, how ordinary people were able participate in or at least secretly condone these atrocities.
Does the novel then give an answer to this? Well, yes and no. It does suggest an explanation as to why and how ordinary men turn into monsters in order to deal with what they had to do to men, women, children. But it doesn’t really explain it – probably in part because of the narrator – but how could you really? Of course, the book raises some interesting questions. Would we have condemned the Endlösung as much if Germany had actually won the war? I definitely think Littell has a point here because victors are never wrong. And maybe that’s the whole point of the book, that as long as you are on the winning side, you can justify anything. Were the Germans all war criminals then? No, not according to Aue. (I don’t know if he speaks for Littell too, on this point.) Aue plainly states that there is no such thing as inhumanity, just humanity and more humanity (p. 589). The people performing these war crimes, were just unlucky to be born in Germany at this point in time and really, had no choice. If they wanted to live, to feed their families, some things were necessary to do. He freely admits that some people lost their heads but he also removes the blame from a lot of the people who performed unspeakable acts. But again, Aue is not a good representative for the German people. He is too twisted and the novel looses some of it’s power and importance because of this. So ultimately, we don’t get an answer to how Hitler managed to seduce so many people, to tap into a already existing hates and distrusts and make it grow. Or really, much of an answer to anything.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the poop … lots and lots of poop … ...more
Normally, I can't wait to get to bed. I can't wait to lie in bed and read. The house is quiet, the kids are asleep, the tv is off - just quality timeNormally, I can't wait to get to bed. I can't wait to lie in bed and read. The house is quiet, the kids are asleep, the tv is off - just quality time with a book. But when reading this book, reading wasn't always pleasant. This is really not a book you read to to enjoy it or to be pulled into another world and explore it. I read this in part because my boyfriend recommended it, in part because we sponsor a child in Cambodia and in part because I didn't know much about the Khmer Rouge and wanted to learn. This is the story of Chanrithy Him and her family, her parents and seven siblings. This is her story of how it was growing up in a Cambodia, torn apart by the Khmer Rouge. What this family is put through is truly dreadful. There are passages where you just question how any human being is cable of inflicting such suffering on others - or how anyone manage to survive it all. Chanrithy tells engagingly about how she and her family is forced to leave their home and find their way out of the city, ending up in various villages in the country as they move along. Very quickly her father is executed - being a man of learning, he was not wanted by the Khmer Rouge who sought to create a society where all was equal and where anybody with any education was a threat to be eliminated. After being forced to dig his own grave, her father is killed with a hoe ... Her mother is then the sole caretaker of the family but most of the children are forced to work, sometimes being sent to work camps far away on their own and never given enough to eat. The lack of food and the very hard work naturally have an impact on their health, inflicting various diseases on them or causing rather minor diseases to become much more critical. One of the hardest things for me to read was the story of how her three-year old brother lies in hospital, dying, and how all he wants - of course - is his mother. But she is too sick to be able to walk to the hospital to see him so he ends up dying without his mother visiting him - and when he has died, his sister takes his shirt off him because the family needs that for another child... Also, the story of Chanrithy's other little brother who does survive the Khmer Rouge is heartbreaking since he is too young to really understand what's happening - but not too young to feel the suffering and the hunger - and is left too fend for himself all day when his older family member are working in the fields. An execution of a pregnant woman is also a scene that stays with me. Although we are all more or less desensitized to stories of human suffering, war crimes, and killings, the Khmer Rouge were so cruel that parts of this story really shocked me. And as if the physical suffering they inflicted on the people of Cambodia wasn't enough, they also tried to eliminate the culture by minimizing the importance of family, the polite ways of addressing others - and of course killing off anybody who in any way caught their displeasure. One thing I was really impressed with in Chanrithy's memoirs is the fact that she does tell stories about some members of the Khmer Rouge who was kind and helpful, caring and friendly. She does share how some of them helped her in various ways - some of them just by being kind and showing some humanity. This is a dreadful history of a truly tragic period of human history. I would like to conclude by saying something along the lines that if you don't know history, you are doomed to repeat it, but sometimes I fear that these various tyrannic regimes actually take notes from each other so that they constantly evolve and each new regime becomes even more horrible than the one before, capable of inflicting even more suffering. Still, knowledge is a good thing - unless of course you are living in a country ruled by Mao, the Khmer Rouge or other regimes hating education and knowledge. For us, fortunate enough to live in countries where we have the freedom to do pretty much whatever we wish for, in some ways we have a duty to honor the people suffering in other countries by at the very least reading about their plights. ...more
And here I thought all New England had to brag about is the Patriots - turns out they have some really happening colleges - or at least had in the 80sAnd here I thought all New England had to brag about is the Patriots - turns out they have some really happening colleges - or at least had in the 80s, where Brett Easton Ellis' story of sex, drugs, rape, abortion and suicide takes place. The story is told from a lot of different perspectives, but mainly we follow Lauren, Paul and Sean. Lauren, who has dated Paul but after Paul and Sean are no long dating, dates Sean - but still they all 'see' other people. In the beginning, it's hard to figure out what's going on - who's doing what to whom exactly - but the longer you get in the book, the clearer it gets. That is, as clear as it can get for people who are constantly on something and doing somebody. For me, the strongest point of the book is how the different persons experience totally different things -although they are at the same party or even in the same bed - and how they put different value on the things happening. And how misconceptions arise due to the heave drug intake, most of them are constantly on. But mostly, they just don't really care. About anything. No wonder that these characters could possibly grow up and become Patrick Batemans, of American Psycho fame, and not only little brother Sean Bateman could be heading down this track. None of them really sober up long enough to think about what's actually going on and why that girl tried to kill herself. All they care about is how to get the next lay or the next fix. The story is so well crafted - with an open beginning and an open end - when you finish the book, nothing have really moved or changed but still you feel different, you have caught a glimpse into these people's life and although none of it was pretty, you still care for them even though they are completely self-absorped... Highly recommended for those who can stomach it!...more
Ivan Denisovich Sukhov is in prison - or rather, he is in a Siberian labour camp, placed there for a non-crime (being captured as a POW by the GermansIvan Denisovich Sukhov is in prison - or rather, he is in a Siberian labour camp, placed there for a non-crime (being captured as a POW by the Germans, escaping and then telling the truth about it...). What this story is, is the account of one day of the three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days he has to spend in this place. It follows him from the morning reveille till he again lays in his bunk at night time. What's amazing about this book is that the author has decided to write a very positive book - because this is a good day. Ivan Denisovich Sukhov has in fact a very good day and when he falls asleep that night, he is happy. But the reason he is happy is what makes the book's point so clearly. He is happy because all day long he has managed to stay out of trouble, he has done work he liked and was good at and he has managed to get some extra food several times during the day - in short, he survived. So the author shows us what 200 extra grams of bread mean to a prisoner in these camps - that's enought to make or break you - and that's what stays with you after finishing the book. These men were given so incredible little and therefore are happy for such few strokes of good luck that you sit back and are amazed. No wonder that Solzhenitsyn himself spend years in such a camp (which was the inspiration for this book) and was later exiled from Russia for writing books like this! And no wonder either, that he was given the Nobel Prize of Literature for this book. It's is so very well crafted because you expect a dark and gloomy look into a desperate and hopeless world - and you see instead a man living the best he can, without loosing himself completely - although he is slowly forgetting his family and life outside the camps. It probably didn't help my sympathizing with the main protagonist that I was freezing the whole time I read the book - not sure if I froze because of the book or the cold just enhanced the book......more