Somehow I got a feeling that this is a book that could have only been written in the 70's. (It was originally published in 1974.) So many of the conceSomehow I got a feeling that this is a book that could have only been written in the 70's. (It was originally published in 1974.) So many of the concerns that lurk behind the pages evoke that era to me: the Cold War, the emerging post-structuralism and feminist/gender theory. That probably sounds like the makings of a truly tedious book to many, but in my opinion it isn't that at all....more
A fairly readable and interesting retelling of the Child Ballad 37, concerning a Scottish bard, his seven years in the Fairy and his life after that.A fairly readable and interesting retelling of the Child Ballad 37, concerning a Scottish bard, his seven years in the Fairy and his life after that.
Edit Not to mention, it's a fantasy book where tiresome physical fighting is replaced with lovely verbal sparring. Imagine that. Reason enough to bump my previous three star rating to four....more
Unfortunately, war is good for fiction: the last, and shortest, part of the book, which deals with the First World War, is also the best. Not that theUnfortunately, war is good for fiction: the last, and shortest, part of the book, which deals with the First World War, is also the best. Not that the rest of it is bad, by any means. But at times the whole affair gets meandering and listless. And I like big, sprawling family sagas!
On a personal note, reading The Children's Book made me want to relive my teens and 20's, so I could spend less time brooding and more reading. The way Byatt writes about literature and art is inspiring, and after finishing one of her novels, you want to read everything there is to read, especially of British literature: Eliot, Kipling, Nesbit, all the poets... Everything. ...more
I actually finished this some days ago, but didn't mark it as read, because it took me a while to figure out what to say about it. And I did want to sI actually finished this some days ago, but didn't mark it as read, because it took me a while to figure out what to say about it. And I did want to say something.
I liked Lindqist's first novel, Let The Right One In a lot, but thought it was little heavy on gory details. Too bad then that Lindqvist seems to have looked at that book and said to himself: "Not bad, needs more gore." And so was his latest, Lilla Stärjna, or Little Star, born. A book that I very nearly didn't finish, because on page 44 (of almost 600) there's a scene so violent it made me feel faint and nauseous. And it wasn't the last one of its kind, oh no. But in a way it was the worst. Nonetheless, this isn't really a book you can stop reading once you've started. In that sense, Lindqvist really is a master storyteller.
What is the story, then ? Well, between the blood flow, the book follows two girls from infancy to puberty. In other words, after tackling vampires, ghosts and zombies, the horror trope Lindqvist takes on this time is the "creepy, dangerous child."
Theres is found buried alive in a shallow grave in the woods. Lennart, who finds her, takes her to his home, locks her in the cellar and keeps her there. His wife Laila and their son Jerry are the only other people that Theres sees for years. She can't feel physical pain, but she has an otherworldly talent for singing. Meanwhile, Teresa lives a relatively normal life with a perfectly normal family: an overworked father, worried mother and two brothers. But there's also something slightly wrong with Terese: being lonely and bullied exacerbates that. When the girls meet, things take turn for the worse.
Lindqvist chronicles the girls' lives in loving detail, even the mundane parts. A meaner person might even say that the book consists of about 500 pages of tedium, interspersed with 80 pages of stomach turning violence. But that would be unfair and not entirely accurate. The mundane parts work, because for one thing, Lindqvist is a good writer: he can create an atmosphere of dread out of almost anything. The story never feels stagnant. It is a bit overlong, though.
Many Swedish writers obviously love dwelling on the dark side of their shiny happy country. Lindqvist does this quite brilliantly by bringing horror elements together with the very symbols of Swedish light heartedness and gaiety, like Abba. It works and the effect is quite powerfully creepy.
Despite the strong points, I would not call Little Star the writer's best effort: The Harbor still holds that place. Here I could not sufficiently suspend my disbelief re: the staggering incompetence of the Swedish police. Yes, I know that Olof Palme's murderer is still at large, and that's the longstanding national nightmare, the trauma that made our dear neighbours question whether their authority figures actually are good for anything, but come on. What happens here is just ridiculous. And that's before we even get to the identity theft that could reasonably work for all of five minutes. Thirdly, I don't think Lindqvist really understands how masochism works. But okay, I'm no expert either, and it does work in the context, so we'll let that one slide. Fourthly, the portrayal of an African-American woman (expat living in Sweden) as a large, nurturing Mammy -type made me just the tiniest bit uncomfortable.
However, the last point: the story begins with someone trying to bury alive a baby. It ends with the reader (at least this one) wishing they had succeeded. It's some kind of achievement to make the character so monstrous that the wish does cross one's mind. But I'm not sure it's an achievement I can like or admire.
I read this to my niece (although obviously not in English), who's few months short of three years old. It's one of her favorite books, and it's easyI read this to my niece (although obviously not in English), who's few months short of three years old. It's one of her favorite books, and it's easy to see why: it's just delightful....more
Remember VCR? We had had the movie "Kiss of the Spider Woman" on tape when I was in high-school. It was taped from TV by my parents. But then somethinRemember VCR? We had had the movie "Kiss of the Spider Woman" on tape when I was in high-school. It was taped from TV by my parents. But then something else was taped over it, E.R. or My So Called Life, probably, because those were the things we kids watched back then. So, when that episode of the aforementioned E.R. or MSCL ended, the movie begun, but not from the beginning. It was confusing, but very engrossing, so I ended up watching it anyway. And then forgot about it for years. Recently, I got to thinking about it again for some reason, but only had vague recollections of what it was like. Luckily, I remembered that it was about two men sharing a prison cell, and the other one's name: Molina. Googling "Molina prison movie" led me to re-finding it, and also to finding this book. Both of which are famous, so I probably should have been aware of them anyway, after all those years of studying literature and everything. In my defense, the book was only translated into Finnish in 2009.
In any case, it is a remarkable, marvelous novel. In an Argentinian prison, Molina, a gay man, plays Scheherazade for his cell-mate, Valentin the revolutionary, by telling him the plots of his favorite movies, seven in total. Some of them are real movies, like the original "Cat People" and "I Walked With a Zombie", couple of them Puig made up. But even the real ones get Molina's own spin, because he doesn't always remember all the details clearly, mixes things and makes them up. Thus, the way Molina recounts and reinvents the plots says a lot about him.
Puig combines some very "high-brow" elements, like an extremely experimental, modernist narrative structure and scientific discussion on the roots of homosexuality, with Molina's "low-brow" melodramas. The effect is unlike anything else I've ever read before....more
This book needs to be about hundred pages shorter. The first part of it drags a little, but once Miéville's enviable imagination takes over and the stThis book needs to be about hundred pages shorter. The first part of it drags a little, but once Miéville's enviable imagination takes over and the story starts to flow, it's not a bad reading experience. But reading the last 70-100 pages was like pulling teeth. Part of the problem is a typical detective story problem: apart from few giants of the genre, the pay-offs and solutions are rarely as good as the mystery and build-up. It could have been helped if the writing was a bit tighter.
Still, The City & the City is not a bad book. The idea about two cities that could be one but are separated not by walls or barbed-wire fences, but by some sort of weird mass psychosis. There are interesting themes and ideas about seeing and choosing not to see, about strangers, foreigners (and foreignness), and neighbors. These themes are not badly handled. However, a little bit of less repetition would not have gone amiss.
This is not a book for those who always need their fictional characters to be fully realized, or "round". Pretty much all the characters here are more or less paper thin. They're just pegs on which to hang certain detective story tropes: The Detective, The Younger Police, The Victim, The Victim's Scared Confidant and so on. I think that's okay. Not all the books are or need to be about people. The City & the City privileges themes, and the place....more
Funke clearly likes her alternate worlds where protagonists from ours meet fantastic beasts and have adventures. This time the world is entered troughFunke clearly likes her alternate worlds where protagonists from ours meet fantastic beasts and have adventures. This time the world is entered trough a mirror. The world-building here is solid, and the tale itself rather competently told. But the ending was terrible: so abrupt and a complete cop-out....more
This could be my new thing: super short classics. The same sense of accomplishment for half the work. It's a win-win, really. Win-win-win, even, if thThis could be my new thing: super short classics. The same sense of accomplishment for half the work. It's a win-win, really. Win-win-win, even, if the classic in question is a truly enjoyable read, as this one is....more
There was never much chance for me not to like this book. It's a big, post-colonial family saga with non-linear timeline and war? Sing me up for someThere was never much chance for me not to like this book. It's a big, post-colonial family saga with non-linear timeline and war? Sing me up for some that!...more
Not everything was better in the Olden Days. Like dentistry. Or novels. Chariton's Callirhoe: Love Story in Syracuse is one of the oldest novels thatNot everything was better in the Olden Days. Like dentistry. Or novels. Chariton's Callirhoe: Love Story in Syracuse is one of the oldest novels that has survived almost extant. On one hand, it's quite exciting. There are pirates, love triangles, wars and courtroom scenes aplenty. On the other hand it's deeply silly. Practically every male who crosses paths with the titular character falls desperately in love with her. Everyone runs frantically hither and tither around the Mediterranean and Middle East. The wailing, chest thumping and hair pulling at the slightest provocation never end.
The main characters are very idealized and perfect. All this must have spelled very "high" literature to ancient Greek readers, but to a modern reader (well, this modern reader at least) it's almost farcical. It's all just so... silly. Still, three stars for an undeniably interesting and entertaining read that's not lacking in great scenes and lively descriptions....more