Monday, July 30, 2007


Det får bli ett Pottermaraton det närmsta halvåret eller något. Redan när jag läste sexan (som jag inte var säker på att jag ens hade förrän jag kom hem med en nyinköpt dublett igår) kände jag att jag egentligen borde ha läst om femman (som jag köpte och lämnade kvar i England för två somrar sedan för att den var så satans tjock) för att kunna hänga med. I stället för att börja om från femman är det väl lika bra att ta allt från början och få ett sammanhang tänker jag alltså nu och detta är min plan. Naturligtvis får jag ta och läsa annat också annars får jag väl Pottofobi innan jag hunnnit fram till den ännu olästa sista delen. Nr sex-dubletten är utbytt mot en femma och jag är redo!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Vesuvius Club

Title: The Vesuvius Club
Author: Mark Gatiss
Pocket Books, 2005 (2004)

Lucifer Box, the protagonist of this novel, is the James Bond equivalent of Edwardian England. He beds ladies (and a few fellows) like there is no tomorrow and while in a jam, his adversaries always try to kill him using the most elaborate contraptions; they are always kind enough to take time to tell him exactly how their master-plans are supposed to work, after which they obligingly leave him so that he can trick his way out of their murderous devices. If you like the typical James Bond plot, you will probably find this amusing as well. If you think oo7 is a bit tiresome and that his luck workwise and ladywise is not quite plausible, then chances are that Lucifer Box will fail to impress you.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Doubleday, 2007

This is a book that actually deserves all the hype and brouhaha that has surrounded it. However, because of it, I was a bit wary and prepared to be disappointed when I started reading it. Death is our narrator and he turns out to be quite a likable fellow, albeit with an unpopular job. He tells the story of one of his favourite humans, Liesel Meminger who arrives as a foster child to a couple outside Munich at the beginning of WWII. Set in an evil time, this is a novel with a surprising number of good people. This is a relief since books about this era tend to bury themselves in horror and misery. The circumstances would be horrible enough one would think. The story and narrative of this novel are good, but the real reason you should read it is the evocative language! Quite a treat, in other words. Just try to steer clear of all the hype before reading it so this does not kill it for you.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bilder från semestern!

Nu har jag lagt upp 16 härliga bilder från semestern i Lake District på Använd länken i kolumnen till vänster - "my other spots on the web" och gå in i albumet "Lake District".

Sunday, July 22, 2007

England's Mistress

Title: England's Mistress
Author: Kate Williams
Arrow Books, 2007 (2006)

Getting to know the famous men in history through their women is a lot more interesting than concentrating on only the men themselves. The same is true for Nelson, the hero of the Nile and Trafalgar. This biography, you see, is actually not about him, but about the love of his life - Lady Emma Hamilton. Born to poverty and a life of toil in an obscure, bleak mining village, this beauty broke free and climbed the social ladder straight up to the top (almost). She begun as a lowly maid, was then forced to resort to common prostitution before her beauty and artistic ability made her the muse of Romney. She moved to Naples, married into the nobility and became Queen Maria Carolina's close friend and confidante. This is a brilliant biography (and that can be a stuffy genre) about a brilliant time and this endearing woman could only have lived and reinvented herself as she did at just that time.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Apple

Title: The Apple - Crimson Petal Stories
Author: Michel Faber
Canongate Books, 2007

This collection of stories are mildly engaging, more so if you have read and loved The Crimson Petal and White. Here, we encounter many of the same characters, often set in time before or after their appearance in the novel. The stories about Sugar are, maybe surprisingly, not the most enticing in the collection. Compared to the portrayal of her in the novel, these brief sketches are rather flat and fail to deepen our understanding of her. My recommendation must be to skip this collection in favor of the predecessor that inspired it or even for Faber's debut novel Under the Skin.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Case Histories

Title: Case Histories
Auhtor: Kate Atkinson
Black Swan, 2005 (2004)

If you are looking to recapture the magic felt when reading Behind the Scenes at the Museum, look again. This is at times a bit funny, a bit sad and a bit interesting, but not much more. Three unsolved crimes are presented and a detective introduced. Then, it is as the case with the ketchup bottle, nothing much happens until the end, when everything comes flying out all at once. The characters are coarsely drawn and bit like charicatures at times. If you have a lazy day or two to waste I wouldn't actively dissuade you from reading this, it's not that bad, but there are better things around.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Semester: läsa eller umgås?

Trevligt ressällskap!

Under en semester till Korfu för ett antal år sedan läste jag en bok om dagen under min parasoll och mådde prima. Efter ett par dagar började jag dock märka att min sambo hade synpunkter på detta. Han ville umgås. Vid några tillfällen nedlät jag mig åt att spela lite strandtennis (jag är en fantastiskt strandtennisspelare) men jag förstod vid hemkomsten att detta plus samvaro vid middagsmålet inte riktigt hade räckt vad min sambo anbelangade. Därför har jag numera en tydlig strategi för att maximera läsandet på semestern, utan att göra min sambo besviken.
  • Genom att inte packa ned böcker i bagaget skapar man en god stämning redan från början. Böcker på engelska kommer man lätt över utomlands och en bok i handbagaget har ju även han, så detta är ju inget misstänkt.

  • Ha alltid en bok i handväskan. Vem vem, har sambon haft otur på den indiska restaurangen kan ett toalettbesök dra ut på tiden och vad nesligt det hade varit att sitta där och rulla tummarna utan att ha något att göra. Nej, gör i stället läsning möjligt vid varje tillfälle som dyker upp.

  • Åk på en aktiv semester. Efter en femtimmars vandring upp och ner för ett berg kan tjusningen med att umgås blekna. Då kanske sambon själv föredrar en tupplur eller en bra bok.

  • Sambon kanske själv har önskemål som bara involverar honom själv. Min gillar yoga. När han yogar, sitter jag förnöjsamt på ett mysigt cafe eller på en trevlig parkbänk (om vädret tillåter) och läser. Alla är nöjda och glada.

Under post-Korfu-semestrarna har jag ju också insett en annan viktig sak. Han är min sambo av en anledning - han råkar nämligen vara ett högst underhållande, trevligt och mysigt ressällskap. Att kombinera välbehövlig tid tillsammans med lika välbehövd ensamtid sätter guldkant på tillvaron. Dessutom kan det vara viktigt för ett ensambarn som mig att lära att det där med att kompromissa, det behöver inte vara en sådan himla dum idé ändå...


Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Virago Press, 2003 (1938)

I've been looking forward to reading this old classic ever since I realised that Du Maurier had also written the short story that Hitchcock's The Birds was based on. From a feminist point-of-view it is a maddening story (young bride adores older husband and is willing to overlook the fact that he killed his first, uppity wife as long as he is just willing to love her) but if you find it possible to overlook that, it is a thrilling read and I do feel a bit for the husband. You know, procuring a divorce in those days was no easy feat and a man's got to do what a man's got to do.

Digging to America

Title: Digging to America
Author: Anne Tyler
Vintage, 2007 (2006)

Two very different families welcome their adopted children on the same day, on the same airport. With their children's heritage (South Korea) in common, they become friends. Tyler gives us, as she often does, real flesh-and-blood people. We see how they raise their girls and we compare their ways, just as the characters themselves do. None of the methods are perfect and none obviously better than the other. Just like the characters. They come across as people you yourself might know and love. Despite all their faults and irritating quirks, you warm to them. The theme of belonging is obvious: belonging to a family, in a country or even belonging among other people at all.

Brothers in War

Title: Brothers in War
Author: Michael Walsh
Ebury Press, 2006

This work of non-fiction is based on the masses of letters that the Beechey family wrote during the Great War. Mrs. Amy Beechey saw all of her eight sons go off to war. Five were lost forever and a sixth came back crippled for life. Naturally, this is a gripping story and Walsh' prose complements the letters well. It is also an interesting historical document since the eight brothers between them fought at several of the major theaters of war: the Western front, Turkey and North Africa are all covered as well as many of the major battles: Gallipoli, Somme and Ypres. Since two of the brothers had emigrated to Australia before the war, we also get the colonial perspective. This is a good read for anyone interested in the Great War and also for people looking for an introduction to it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Title: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Author: Bill Bryson
Black swan, 2007 (2006)

What a lot of fun! Bryson tells us about that most wonderful of times - the American 1950s. That is, it was wonderful if you didn't happen to interfere with American trade or if you didn't live anywhere near the Bikini islands. Without shying away from American political arrogance and attrocities around the globe, this native of Des Moines, Iowa, has me in stitches time and time again. I will readily admit that plenty of my laughs are in response to stories about people wetting themselves, peeing into jars and other number one and two-related things, but if you feel that this might amuse you too then this is the perfect summer biography!


Title: Perfume (Das Parfum)
Author: Patrick Süskind
Penguin, 1987 (1985)

In 18th century Paris a peculiar, unwanted child is born. Grenouille is almost void of any human feeling. He lives by his nose and smell is all that governs him and his choices. As a young man he finds that the smell of a ripe, innocent virgin is he only scent worth having and after training as an apprentice perfumer he tries to capture this essence of innocense by murdering young girls. This is a classic that tells us that if you hate, you can't love and is definitely worth reading. The olfactory aspect of living alone is quite interesting to ponder and Süskind certainly manages to convince me that this might be a sense I should pay more attention to.

The Way the Crow Flies

Title: The Way the Crow Flies
Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald
HarperPerennial, 2004 (2003)

This novel was finished greedily, late at night with toothpicks to hold my eyelids open. 8-year-old Madeleine arrives on a Canadian air force base in the 1960s with her family. In school, Madeleine, whose voice is distinctive and highly enjoyable, and a few other kids are manipulated by a paedophile teacher and her father, with good intentions, gets caught up in a secret Cold War operation. The murder of a young girl connects these two, parallell stories.

This is a humdinger of a novel which deals with several hefty issues, such as the cruelties of children, science vs. justice (=race to space vs. procecuting Nazi criminals), and how a good man can make a bad man's choice and justify it to himself. When you read, you can find things to annoy you if you choose to, but you will probably be to busy enjoying yourself. Perfect summer read!

Hem kära hem!

Härlig semester med mycket läsning, vandring och goda scones med sylt och grädde. Och te. Och lite kaffe. Och sedan mer av allt. Sex böcker väntar på bloggning och 200 bilder på bearbetning. Jag öppnar med en härlig bild från Ambleside i Lake District som är och förblir vår semesterfavorit. Denna vyn ligger 100 meter från B&B och här satt jag och läste på kvällarna när Fredde ockuperade rummet för yoga... Jag klagade inte.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Mot England!

Ja, nu åker jag på sommarens andra bortasemester: Lake District i England! En repris på förra årets goding. Storslagen natur, god mat och härliga kulturupplevelser. Jag återvänder den 14/7 och därefter kan ni väntas en recension av bl.a. The Way the Crow Flies som jag har förlustat mig med nu de senaste dagarna men inte hinner färdigt med innan vi åker. Den var över förväntan och riktigt härlig! Håll tummarna för att inte planet störtar!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Skådespel på landet

Det är svårt att veta om man ska titta i boken eller på skyn när man har ett sådant här dramatiskt himlavalv framför näsan. Kövlinge, Halland, kan också bjuda på skådespel! Förstora gärna!

A Long Way Down

Title: A Long Way Down
Author: Nick Hornby
Penguin, 2006 (2005)

I am beginning to believe that Hornby is actually turning from comedy to tragedy. His first two novels were definitely comedies, albeit with tragic elements. How to be Good, however, was always more of a downer than an upper for me, and with this last novel, Hornby has completed his journey. The story is about four people who accidentally decide to kill themselves at the same time in the same place and have their plans thrown off when they run into each other. Yes, there are a few laughs along the way and (spoiler-warning!) the end is somewhat sunny (if you consider that the story began with the heaviest and most unpermeable of clouds). But the upbeat finale seems like an afterthought ("oh, that's right, I was supposed to write comedy...") and is not entirely convincing. Still worth reading though and extra kudos for the Jess character who is the saddest, most enervating, asshole in all of Christendom.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Title: The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Author: Kim Edwards
Penguin, 2006 (2005)

This feels like a novel who would suit housewives who believe themselves to have "literary" tastes (yes, I'm being a book snob; no need to point that out). A few steps up from the Romance section. Why? Because it would be obvious to the thickest fool, and the man in question is a smart, young doctor, that your life will be plagued by guilt and secrecy if you tell your young wife - after delivering her of twins in a blizzard - that one of her babies died, although it was really very much alive but had Down Syndrome, and give it away to your nurse (Nightingale, not Ratchett) who promptly leaves town to raise the child elsewhere. This is the start of the novel, and naturally, the doctor does not come to his senses and confess to his wife because then there would not be a 500+ page novel. And, since Jodi Picoult raved so about this novel on its cover, I have been dissuaded from trying out her books any time soon.

The Observations

Title: The Observations
Author: Jane Harris
faber and faber, 2006

This novel is set in Scotland in 1863 and its heroine, Bessy Buckley, has been rightfully praised. She is a delectable character - a take-charge gal who manages to be sweet and lonely as well as plucky and streetwise. She is on the run from her pimp mother when she becomes the only maid in a lonely mansion with a strange mistress. This story, however, was scarier than I thought (although I am easily frightened, I admit) and the image of a blood-shot eye unexpectedly staring out through a keyhole will stay with me. My only complaint: why must all spunky heroines in 19th century novels (written today) be ex-prostitutes? I believe there must have been a few other professions for poor people in the days of yore.