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2020 Book Discussion Archive > "I Am Behind You" First Impressions *No Spoilers*

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message 1: by Dan (new)

Dan | 755 comments Our book for February 2020 is available electronically for $14.99. I saw brand new, multiple hardback copies available on eBay for around $10, and that includes the price of shipping! Unless you have a strong preference for eReading your books--I sure don't--buying a print version seems the way to go this time. I'm letting everyone know now so that you can purchase yours just in time to have it delivered by February.

message 2: by milda (new)

milda I found the book, I’ll start it in a few days!
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Swedish author, and I think I never read a weird Swedish author so I’m pretty excited!

message 3: by Dan (last edited Jan 29, 2020 10:18AM) (new)

Dan | 755 comments My copy just arrived. So glad I only had to pay a third of the $28.99 list price. New books have become so ridiculously expensive!

I read the first eleven pages to see what I might be getting into, and I think this is going to really be a great read. A lot of characters come fast in those pages. I'm going to need to keep a character chart, I see. That's where I write the name of the character, the page number they first appear in parentheses, and then a few words about them. A page in a spiral notebook works well. It goes like this:

Isabelle Sundberg (5) Blonde, beautiful/hot, mother. Pushy.
Molly Sundberg (5) Demanding 5-year-old daughter. Appears cute.
Peter Sundberg (6) Footballer, wife-beater. Overwhelmed?
Stefan Larsson (6) Wants air conditioning. Devoted to wife. Thick glasses.
Emil Larsson (6) 6-year-old son. Autistic?
Carina Larsson (6) Wife, worshiped by Stefan.
Benny (11) 7-year-old, dog?

And so on... That way, every time there's a character switch and I don't remember who exactly the character is I have a quick reference.

message 4: by Dan (last edited Feb 09, 2020 08:41PM) (new)

Dan | 755 comments Scott wrote: "I feel so bad for Peter. His wife is a real you-know-what. Their daughter is...interesting (I just read the "puppy" part)."

For being a Swedish book translated into English, I'm sure finding it to be more universal than I expected. I mean with the exception of Abba (the band and the individual names that comprise it) and the two famous football players he mentions and their styles compared, I get none of the cultural or geographical references. But it doesn't matter. The attitudes, relationships, and types of people are exactly the same. I thought there would be larger differences. I am surprised to read of a Swedish character complaining of heat. It ever gets hot in Sweden? Who knew?

message 5: by Dan (last edited Feb 09, 2020 08:43PM) (new)

Dan | 755 comments Oh my goodness! I meant to delete my old post because I moved it to the spoilers thread, but accidentally deleted yours about Peter instead, Scott. I'm so terribly sorry. Can you re-post it please?

message 6: by Scott (new)

Scott Well, you've quoted it above, so it's kind of still here.

Donald's wife is quite horrid as well! I am never marrying a Swedish woman!

I am surprised and baffled to see you label Peter a wife beater as I have only seen abuse come from Isabelle as yet. So he derives some inward pleasure at the thought of something befalling her--who wouldn't in his place? She does nothing but swear at him and verbally abuse him in all sorts of ways, in front of everyone including their child. Hell, I'm looking forward to something terrible happening to her!

message 7: by Dan (last edited Feb 10, 2020 02:27PM) (new)

Dan | 755 comments Scott wrote: "Well, you've quoted it above, so it's kind of still here.."

Thank you browser back button, and thank you for understanding.

We find out Carina is no prize either. All that glitters sure isn't gold, whatever the hair color.

I drew my conclusion on Peter early, from page eight. Second paragraph his wife drops the f-bomb twice to bless him out for what turns out to be nothing. Third paragraph goes: "He mustn't hit her. If he does, the balance of power will shift, temporary peace agreements will be torn up and everything will be sucked down to chaos. He did hit her once. The satisfaction was enormous, the aftermath unbearable."

Lindqvist writes with this same really strong insight into the truth of our human natures not being at their finest throughout the book, very much like Steven King so often does, perhaps even better than the master. It doesn't matter the age or gender of whom he's writing. Aldqvist's vision is always sharp if depressing in its candid darkness.

message 8: by Scott (last edited Feb 10, 2020 04:39PM) (new)

Scott I don't think hitting someone once makes him a wife beater, and if she acted that one time as we see her behaving in the story, I completely understand.

message 9: by Dan (new)

Dan | 755 comments It's hard to be sweared at and insulted that way. I agree with you about Isabelle being the most obnoxious character (her daughter, Molly, being a creepy second). I'd be angry enough to shut up, walk away, and stay away for a while.

No justification ever for hitting a woman, or anyone for that matter, when walking away is an available option. That "the aftermath unbearable" comment reveals why--that was learned (by this character) from painful experience.

message 10: by Scott (new)

Scott Life, and interpersonal relationships, are messy, not mathematical, and sometimes people get pushed to the limit and do something they shouldn't. Peter is not a bad person, in fact he's described as someone who enjoys helping people and who receives great personal satisfaction out of seeing them succeed.

Yes, he probably should walk away from his nasty wife and daughter (for good), but that's not easy either, especially if the family courts in Sweden are as bad as they are in the U.S.

message 11: by Scott (new)

Scott I can see the similarities between Lindqvist and King but I think he is much better; his books aren't loaded with repetitive filler.

message 12: by Scott (new)

Scott Ah, so Peter does finally take that step. Not that anything can be done about it currently, but I wanted to cheer!

It seems like none of the spouses really like each other. Maybe that is the connection that brought them here?

Molly reminds me of a girl I knew, who would also make me do things by saying she'd "tell on me." Even as a child I knew that a girl would be believed over me, though I knew I hadn't done anything wrong. Molly is horrible but I am fascinated by her. There's something wrong with her, much like there was something wrong with Theres in Little Star, and I'm dying to know what it is.

message 13: by Dan (new)

Dan | 755 comments May I suggest we take this discussion over to the spoiler thread? That's where I will reply in any event.

message 14: by Scott (new)

Scott Okay. I was hesitant to look there since you are further than I am.

message 15: by Dan (new)

Dan | 755 comments Understandable. I put real spoilers behind spoiler tags, even there. Unless the month is pretty much over.

message 16: by Scott (new)

Scott Ok, thanks.

message 17: by milda (new)

milda Just realized that we're the 19th and I still haven't start reading the book, but from what I read there it doesn't sound so great… I'll give it a try later I think

message 18: by Dan (last edited Feb 22, 2020 08:50AM) (new)

Dan | 755 comments I gave the book four stars, a slightly above average rating for me. So I think you're missing out. I'm definitely going to read the sequel some time soon and would be up for reading more from this author.

His writing is not Weird in a conventional Weird sense. In other words, I think the VanderMeers have not picked him up as one of their pets in part because he does not try for rhetorical flourishes in his writing. It's fairly clear and linear. What makes it Weird is that he creates worlds separate from ours that his characters inhabit and which he does not feel the need to explain the parameters of. He also writes across genres.

He dabbles in metafiction somewhat, which is not a Weird trait. I think traditional modern Weird writers are missing an opportunity by not doing more of this themselves.

The fact that he does use clear and linear narrative structure will frustrate some readers because his doing that creates an expectation he doesn't meet, just as other Weird authors do not meet it, of a perfectly rational, explained other world. But I, personally, am okay with that, just as I am when other Weird authors fail to do so.

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