Friday, 28 August 2015

Books of Summer

"Prayers for the Stolen" is the result of 10 years of research and interviews conducted by Jennifer Clement. The main character, Ladydi, is fictional, but pretty much the rest of it is true. I almost liked the epilogue the best, where she mentions a female prisoner who did not want to forget the sea and therefore rubbed in her hands with salt stolen from the cantine - but even though I had hyped hopes for this book that did not come true, it is of course still very important reading.

The baseline is that an hour of ride outside of Mexico City, there is a small city where girls get stolen by drug dealers and their mothers come up with all kinds of strategies to make them ugly. They dye their teeth brown, dig out holes in the ground to hide them and the only beauty shop makes the women there either plain ugly on purpose or beautiful just for as long as they stay inside. Before stepping out, they have to remove nail polish and other attractive details. The only teachers that come there is one person per year that is sent to do workfare as an alternative to going to prison. Not even the army helicopters dare to spread paraquat on the opium fields, as they are shot down. Obliged to report to the government, they dump the chemicals on the city  before reaching the fields, which poisons the people and the ground for a long time.
It is witty, well-written and personal in the most intriguing of ways - but my guess is that many potential readers do not make it past the title: "My Aunt's Migraine or How I Became a Woman". What you are missing is the reading about quite a lovelife. Holst and her editor would separately  avoid certain interesting personal parts, Holts wisely points out, because they both are innocent girls - so she decided to keep them after all. Sadly, none of Holts's books have been translated to English (Wikipedia says). After this journey of about two hundred pages, I am in doubt a translation could give this work any justice, but there are many talented translators out there, so I have not lost hope.
This book touched me more than I normally would acknowledge. I am quite certain I would not hang out with the character's in real life, or even notice them on a street on an ordinary day, but that is what Murakami's characters are generally like (from what I have read about him). I would probably appreciate their opinions on different matters though, so this is a double-sided matter. And then the science fiction elements that are just there makes it even harder to keep the distance to this book. A simple as a close colleague or friend of yours would walk in the room saying, I am not me anymore, everybody would know that one of their parts now is somewhere else. For once easy to explain, but hard to understand.
"Funny Valentine" is indeed funny. I probably laughed and smiled more than five times in total. The hipster in the book can only throw eggs at an actor's house if they are from free-range hens, for example. And always, always add a granny to a book to make it funny. Grannys are golden. Do I recommend the book? Not if I want to keep my good reputation as a "serious" reader. If this book is praised by the cultural elite or not hardly matters - I would not keep it in my shelf for a long time, but perhaps throw smiling glances at it in my memory.
Charlotte Rogan had been writing for 20 years of her adult life before she decided to hit it and I knew I would love it after the first three introducing lines. After a fifth of the book, I was bored. After about the half of it, I was stuck. Who would kill whom? And bored again - they were after all stuck on a boat for two weeks. 

The best part is that the main character is psychologically elaborated. She is smart. She becomes smarter and smarter and that is where the book ends. "The Lifeboat" - in Swedish - does, however, in the end not really keep up with the smartnes of this narrator. I am of the strong opinion that the entire book could have been made even more smart.
 My brother asked in a store for my birthday which book they would recommend him to buy, and they said "The last letter from your lover". I was sceptical. Being a woman, I will probably not often escape recommendations of chic-lit. Now when I have read it, I am more warmly inclined as some parts are well-written, and the suspense kept me interested. I even stayed up late just to finish reading it. 

The best way of knowing if I liked the book is if I will be keep thinking about it after time passes, and right now I have in mind a moment when hangers clashed sofltly against each other "as quiet cymbals" which was beautiful. (Bonus: on the photo you also see other birthday gifts - the alcohol-free beverage Roomi and a strawberry soda.) And now I know: it was well written, no doubt, but this is not the only thing I am looking for in a book. (And I still do not know how to pronounce the British novelist Jojo Moyes' name properly! "j" is a quite different letter in English compared to Swedish.) Not my thing.
"Desperate characters". Middleclass in weariness of life, more fun than it sounds (the recommendation note said). Nope, it was not very fun. But is it ever when a generation and an epoque falls apart? (Turns out, my friend Ilo is fascinated by people who are bored! I quickly recommended her this book.) My favourite scene is taking place in the hospital, where Fox excells as author.

Bonus information: Paula Fox is the grandmother of Francis Bean Courtney and the mother of Courtney Love.
"I kroppen min. Vägsjäl". ("In body mine. Soulgate" - my own attempt to accurate translation.) Kristian Gidlund has a poweful language which comes in shorts phrases. Unfortunately, this is his last book: in 2013, he passed away in cancer. He is happy if his writings can help anyone with their grief, and despite the pain that is also present, the book is foremost about joy and the will to live. I feel that I do not sell it in well enough, so I better sum it up as: beautiful.
Anna Gavalda <3! She is a modern writer: not only words form the story, but also sounds, the size of the letters and their placement. Perfection. One of the best books I read this summer - and I think she might just have become one of my favourite authors.

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