Thursday, 22 December 2011

For something a little different...

Today's post is different for a couple of reasons.  First, it's on a Thursday evening, which doesn't happen very often.  The second is that I don't have a cup of chai tea in front of me, but rather a steaming cup of homemade zucchini soup - YUM!  I'll make a cup of tea later.

I recently received notification that an item I had placed on hold had come in and was ready for me at the library.  When I looked at the title, I had no recollection of requesting this item, and concluded that I had probably read a review of the book in a library journal.  The book was The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis,  translated from the Danish by Kaaberbol.  The novel opens with Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, opening a suitcase her friend Karin has asked her to pick up from a locker at the train station and finding inside a living, breathing, but drugged, three-year -old boy.  As I was reading, I asked myself "What would you do in a situation like that?" and came up with no useful answer.  Nina, though, is quick to react, and her story, what she does, how she discovers what has happened and where the boy came from, makes up a fair bit of the novel.  There are other, equally important, characters in the novel whose stories and connections to Nina and/or the boy are revealed gradually as the story progresses.  I found it to be a real page-turner, but I had some difficulty keeping the characters, especially the female characters, straight at first.  Once I had some sort of handle on their identities, this became much easier, but I did initially need patience in order to stick with it.  I would say, though, that my patience was rewarded with a well-written, interesting novel about the lengths people will go to save the ones they love.  It appears to be the first novel in the "Nina Borg" series, and the first to be translated into English.  This novel put me in mind of Peter Hoeg's Smilla's Sense of Snow, which I had recently taken from my bookshelf with the intention to reread it, but which I reshelved when the reserved item became available at the library.  Hoeg's novel, also set in Denmark, tells the story of a woman who investigates the suspicious death of a child who lived in her building and whom she had befriended.  Both Smilla and Nina seem to have untapped intuitive knowledge and skills at understanding and escaping difficult situations and avoiding traps set by individuals who are less than kind.  It also made me think of other Scandinavian crime novels, such as "Dragon Tattoo" trilogy by Steig Larsson, and the "Kurt Wallander" series by Henning Mankell.  I haven't read the Larsson books, but I have read a number of Mankell's novels.  Although these novels are completely different than The Boy in the Suitcase, crime novels by Scandinavian authors, at least in this reader's experience, have a certain tone and feel that set them apart from other crime novels.  The same can be said of British crime novels, and even American crime novels.  I suppose everyone is somehow influenced by his or her culture and history, even authors, and this must inevitably be reflected in what they write and also the way they write.  I will save the comparison of crime novel characteristics for another time, but I feel safe in recommending The Boy in the Suitcase to anyone who loves to read Scandinavian crime novels. 

On a completely different note, I'm now reading The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright, and it's amazing!  I've read one other novel by her, the Booker-Prize winning The Gathering, which we discussed in my book group.  I found that novel a bit hard-going, as it was not really clear what was real and what was dream and/or memory, and, if memory, how reliable that memory was, but it was still a powerful novel.  This novel is much more staightforward but equally as powerful.  I'm only about a quarter of the way into it, but I can't wait to devour the rest.  I'll write a fuller account of this novel in my next post.

I'll close now, make that cup of tea, and settle down to a couple of hours' worth of reading, the best way to spend a quiet Thursday evening before the holidays. 

Bye for now!
Julie

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