Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett | The Great Story (of the Great War)

On Christmas eve last year I visited a used bookshop in Bryanston in Jo’burg. This was an extremely charming shop where I could have spent hour after hour browsing if I had the chance. Unfortunately shops were closing early because of Christmas, so I only had a chance to browse for a quarter of an hour or so. Their selection is varied, and they have well kept books and a great selection. I finally asked for a recommendation, and the man sold me World Without End by Ken Follett. Before this, I had never read anything by him (except a short story called “DP” (displaced person) in high school), but I’d heard enough about him to be feel confident that I would enjoy it. And enjoy it I did.

Follett’s most recent novel, Fall of Giants is the first part of a trilogy about the 20th century. My Norwegian edition (thank you Maria at Cappelen Damm for giving it to me! Above is the beautiful Norwegian cover) is a proper brick and has more than 900 pages, which can seem intimidating to some readers. A friend in South Africa referred to the book as my weapon – and he wasn’t speaking metaphorically! Despite being so extensive, Follett never becomes boring or uninteresting. This is a novel packed with detail and historical information, but it is always the characters that are at the centre of the story and which makes it an absolutely great read.

Follett is truly a master storyteller. He manages to connect characters from Britain, Germany, Russia and America without the reader ever losing touch. You stay intrigued and interested in these authentic and complex characters, and I came to truly care about many of them. From the happy-go-lucky Russian Lev Pesjkov who can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble, to the Christ-seeing mine worker Billy who follows in his father’s revolutionary shoes, Follett is always manipulating how the reader views them. He also mixes real historical figures with his fictional characters, as well as mixing real places with fictional places like he did in World Without End and The Pillars of the Earth.

The novel is a great historical work. We follow the events leading up to the outbreak of the first world war and the developments in some of the countries involved, focused of course through the characters we follow. Friends from Eton, Lord Fitzherbert and Walter von Ulrich find themselves literally facing each other on the battle field. Friends become enemies, and enemies become friends. All the young men are sent into a seemingly endless war, and casualties rise as the months pass into years on the battlefields of France. At the same time, our friend in Russia, Grigorij Pesjkov, finds himself in the middle of the Russian revolution, and he joins the Bolsheviks in his quest for a better future. Women in Britain are demanding that their voices be heard through getting the right to vote, and there is a power struggle between the Houses of Parliament. And in Germany the emperor abdicates once it becomes clear that Germany has lost the war. It is truly a fall of giants.

In the middle of all the politics and warfare, people fall in love, have babies outside of wedlock, deceive each other and fight to make their own way in the world. Maud Fitzherbert (sister of Lord Fitzherbert) and Ethel Williams (a miner’s daughter) are an unlikely alliance in the fight for women’s rights and for the war to end, but they work well together. American Gus Dewar might be awkward with women, but when it comes to politics he is sharp as steel. The war really brings out the best in some people (and the worst in others). And as a proper romantic, there are some truly great love stories in here.

I could go on about Fall of Giants at length, but it is actually better to read and enjoy for oneself. This is truly a grand story of love, war, hate, fear, classes, sacrifice. Like a good story should, it has “everything”. And there are some truly awesome word duels and confrontations that are just thrilling to read. One thing is for sure. I cannot WAIT for the second installation of the century trilogy. I know writing a piece of this extent must take years, but I hope I don’t have to wait too long. I really want to know the fate of Billy, Ethel, Maud, Fitz, Walter, Gus, Grigorij and Lev (and their kids, who will probably fight in the second world war…).

Friday, 28 October 2011

Slakteren av Øystein Wiik

Jeg leser ikke mye krim, men etter å ha hørt forfatteren selv snakke om boka, ble jeg nysgjerrig. Og når man har fått et signert eksemplar føler man litt at man burde lese boka. Jeg angret ikke, for å si det sånn! Slakteren av operasanger (?) Øystein Wiik er en morsom og annerledes krim. Det meste av handlingen foregår på den franske riviera, men også i Oslo-området og i India, og favner kunsternmiljøer og store økonomiske smutthull.

To lik dukker opp av sentrale figurer innen kunst i Oslo. Når likene oppdages er de "kunstnerisk" dandert, men uten noen synlige spor etter en mulig gjerningsmann (eller kvinne!). Samtidig i den franske riviera, dukker liket av en kvinne opp i bilen til Eddie Jones, og hans venn Tom Hartmann finner seg plutselig involvert i et mørkt nett av svarte penger, en femme fatale, og et forhistorisk udyr. Her er det penger, begjær, maktkamp, og, merkelig nok, yoga, sentralt.

Det er mange morsomme situasjoner og karakterer i boken. Den småkriminelle gjengen som klarer å rote seg opp i en pågående maktkamp på rivieraen er en svært forfriskende tilstedeværelse. Den gradvise avsløringen fra fortiden er fascinerende og holder på spenningen til siste side. Ellers er det svært mange underholdende og interessante karakterer som gjør boken ekstra god.

Jeg vil også gi et lite forbehold: boken er ikke for sarte sjeler! Her er det noen virkelig ekle scener (ikke mange, men ille nok!).

Slakteren er en knallgod krim med høyt tempo. Jeg koste meg masse med boka som både var spennende og underholdende. Anbefales!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ready Player One | The game in the game in the game

I finally had a chance to indulge my geek bone and read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I had been looking forward to reading it for some time, and when I finally had the book in my hands I literally swallowed it. It got me as hooked as proper geeks are when they play WoW (or me when I play HoMM 3)...

The novel is set in 2044, a time where most people spend large parts of their time connected to the virtual world OASIS. Escaping into this virutal reality beats the poverty and environmental crisis the world as a whole is in. OASIS' creator, James Halliday, recently died, and in his will he left all his riches to whoever manages to find the "easter egg" he has hidden somewhere inside OASIS. To find the egg, the "player" first has to find three keys that open three gates. The race has begun.

We follow Wade, or Parzival, which is his OASIS name, the teenager who finds the first key. Wade is almost like Charlie from the Roald Dahl stories, in that he is the poor kid who is introduced to the wonders of the "chocolate factory", or in this case, the OASIS universe. Wade is a proper geek who, like all the other egg hunters, have perused all the tidbits of clues and information left behind by Halliday. Halliday had an extreme nostalgia for the 80s, and so the contestants watch endless hours of shows and movies from the 80s, play all the video games, listen to the music and read all the comics. Un/fortunately I was born in the 80s, so I can't say that I remember all the references, but I still throroughly all the "geeking" about rare editions of computer games played on a RHS 80 (or something!).

But searching for the egg is not all fun and games (pun intended). One group, the sixers (or Suxorz) work for a corporation who wishes to take control of OASIS and destroy Halliday's vision of a free virtual world for everyone. The sixers will do anything to find the egg and win the competition. The other egg hunters ("gunters"), and especially our own Wade, seems to be fighting Goliath in the attempt to beat the sixers to it.

What really appealed to me about this novel was the quests and how the mysteries around the clues were solved. Often the characters have to play games within the game. Games they had played outside, but which now appeared around them again, inside OASIS. There is also a strong linke between sci-fi and fantasy brought on from the magical elements that are allowed in some parts of OASIS.

I also enjoyed some of the other characters in the book. Wade has a few OASIS friends, Art3mis and Aech, who he only knows through OASIS, and who are his closest allies in the search for the egg.

I don't want to say too much about this book. It's kind of a mash between Tron, the Matrix and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and prolly lotsa other Sci-fi references I can't think of right now). It's primarily an experience to read, it really takes you for a pleasure ride through popular culture of the 80s. It kind of feels like watching a computer game, but there's so much in it! My only problem with it, was that there could have been a bit more violence. Hello! It's meant to be a bit like a video game! (I guess the video games of the 80s weren't all that violent to begin with).

Anywho. If u have a geek bone in your body, you just have to read this book. And watch out for the movie. which should be out in 2012 or 2013. I hope they make it R-rated, because that'd be soooo kewl!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Penguin Ink

I am always impressed with Penguin's ability to think new. I love the idea of using "inked" covers to relaunch some modern classics, and possibly reaching a new readership.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt | Instant feel-good

Usually I am not a big fan of so-called feel-good novels. But I have to say, Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, or CeeCee Honeycutts Reddende Engler as it is called in Norwegian, was exactly what I needed right now. An easily accessible novel with that made me laugh and smile while reading.

CeeCee Honeycutt is a very smart 12-year old. Unfortunately her mother has severe psychological problems, and her father have all but abandoned CeeCee in her mother's "care" (more like lack thereof). We have a classical case of the narcissistic mother who is being mothered by her child. Hence CeeCee's maturity. It sounds like the recipe for a tragedy, but as the title indicates, there is hope. CeeCee prays and prays, and suddenly her guardian angels start entering the scene. All it took was her mother's death.

CeeCee is swept away to Savannah by her mother's kind and strong aunt.- She suddenly finds herself in a mansion, surrounded by the loving care of "aunt Tootie" and her maid Oletta. The neighbourhood has some eccentric female characters that CeeCee befriends, and slowly but surely CeeCee starts to realise that she can create her own future despite the problems in her past.

There are some conflicts in the text. CeeCee goes with Oletta and two of her friends to spend a day at the beach. Suddenly they are confronted with racism and hatred so strong that there is nothing they can do about it. The encounter gives CeeCee night terrors, but Oletta manages to get her through it. In the end, the conflict is solved through no effort on the characters' part. There is also the neighbouring gossip and tramp who is the source of much ridicule among the people in the novel. Once more the conflict is "solved" without much effort. There is also the issue of CeeCee's absent father and CeeCee's conflict with herself on weather or not she should forgive him. She realises that forgiveness feels best for the one forgiving, but she is still not sure if she can simply give up her bitterness.

The novel is full of eccentric and strong women- Most of them are quite wise, which can be a little annoying at times. And CeeCee is a little too mature at times, despite knowing that she's had to grow up fast.

At the heart of the novel is friendship: friendships between women that accepts and uplifts. If you want a nice cup of instant feel-good, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is just the ticket.

Cape Town av Tomm Kristiansen

Sør-Afrika er jo mitt andre hjem, og jeg elsker Tomm Kristiansens bøker, så det var ingen tvil om at jeg måtte lese hans nye bok Cape Town. Nå er jeg Jo'burger og litt biased i forhold til hvordan fokus man har på Cape Town vs Jo'burg, men så skriver Tomm Kristiansen så flott og nyansert om Sør-Afrika og Cape Town. Noe av det beste jeg vet med å lese Kristiansen er at jeg rett og slett kan høre stemmen hans i hodet mitt når jeg leser.

Anyway. Kristiansens kjærlighet til stedet gjennomsyrer hele teksten. Her er nydelige landskapsskildringer som gjør at du kan kjenne duftene og "the buzz" av Sør-Afrika. Han skriver om mennesker han møter, om deres daglige liv, deres "struggles" i det nye (og gamle) Cape Town. Her er det politikk, kultur, religion, mat, og selvsagt vin.

Kristiansen gjør teksten personlig. Han snakker om sine egne opplevelser av Cape Town, både gjennom sitt journalistiske virke, og som privatperson. Og det er nettopp Kristiansens evne til å kombinere dette personlige og menneskelige med det politiske/historiske som gjør tekstene hans så gode. Kristiansen har en drøm om at utopien til the Rainbow Nation skal virkeliggjøres, og denne drømmen deler jeg med ham.

For min del skulle gjerne boken vært litt lengre. Jeg savnet et kapittel om Cape Town under Fotball-VM i 2010. Og det hadde vært interessant å lese hans "take" på mordet av indisk-svenske Annie Dewani.

I det store og hele er Cape Town et must for alle (Sør-)Afrika-elskere. For andre som liker en mer nyansert reiseskildring inneholder boken rike skildringer av steder å besøke. Anbefales varmt.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink | The Odyssey revisited

Books about books have always had a strong appeal to me. Perhaps because it makes me feel less of a geek when I'm in the presence of similar spirits, as in people who are as fascinated by stories as I am. It also allows me to think about some of the things we discussed at Uni about stories (yes, I do miss literature studies!!).

In Homecoming, the narrator as a child comes across parts of a manuscript in his grandparents' house. The end of the story, the conclusion to the Odyssean story of homecoming, is missing. As an adult, Peter Debauer is still curious about the ending of the story, and starts trying to discover the secrets of the text.

The homecoming motif is emphasised throughout the novel. In Peter's own life, there are homecomings upon homecomings. The issue of what happens when the man returns to his woman after a long separation is a central conflict in the text, and all the "endings" to that exact story are different. Peter becomes obsessed with the Odyssean story of homecoming and the story without an ending. He analyses his own behaviour according to the Odyssey in an attempt to make sense of his life and situation, but all it does is allow him to stay in a place of inaction, of postponing the inevitable homecoming.

Eventually it becomes clear that the manuscript is directly linked to Peter himself. The writer turns out to be his elusive father, a man Peter never knew. Peter finds other texts by his father, more political texts with a rethoric Peter finds provoking, where evil acts justify a good end. Peter becomes increasingly aggressive as he learns more of this man, and before he can truly be "home" and marry his girlfriend Barbara, he has to try to get to know this man.

Post-war Germany is a backdrop to the events of the narrative. The border issues, issues of collective guilt and identity are connected to this and gives the novel further depth.

As a narrator, Peter both analyses himself ruthlessly at times, and brushes acts off as mere details at other times. On his final "quest", he admits to not knowing what exactly it is he wants, but at the same time he is unable to tear himself away from the approaching train crash and just go home. Considering the events that finally lead to his inevitable homecoming, it is almost as if Peter is waiting to have his worst hopes (or fears?) confirmed.

I found this novel very interesting. The mystery surrounding the manuscript and the slow path to finding out more intrigued me. The many layers of homecomings also gave the story more depth. If I were to read Homecoming against The Odyssey this could probably be a very long essay, but my reading of The Odyssey was negligent at best. I prefer this modernised version (no offense to all the literature scholars who think this is blasphemy).

Thursday, 22 September 2011

In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut | The Silence and the Border

I should have read this novel a year ago. In a Strange Room was one of the major South African novels last year, but I remember getting the impression that this was "intellectual work" (and rightly so!), so I avoided it. Only now, when I'm in Norway, and the novel has been translated into Norwegian, do I decide to read it.

The novel is divided into three, and each part is a journey undertaken by Damon. The narrator at once identifies and distances himself from Damon the protagonist. Sometimes he refers to Damon as "he", whereas in other places the narrator uses "I". This really reminds me of J M Coetzee's autobiographical novels Boyhood and Youth (and the similarities do not end there).

In the first journey South African Damon and German Reiner, who hardly know each other, decide to hike around Lesotho together. There is a strange power struggle in their relationship. On the overt level the story is about their hike, but on the covert level the journey is into their relationship. The power is especially connected to finances, and the one with the money sets the agenda.

Dialogue in the novel is not marked by quotation marks, which works both to underline how little talking there actually is in the novel, as well as to suggest that the author is paraphrasing. Additionally, it blurs the boundary of who's saying what.

The end of the first part is strangely anti-climaxtic (Coetzeean as such), and the narrator admits that silence and uncertainty is the only closure to this story (kind of like life).

In the second part, Damon is travelling through parts of Southern Africa with some random backpackers he ran into. In the group, it is very clear that Damon is kind of an outsider. The tourists are mostly European coming to Africa for leisure, who ignore the social problems of the region. Being South African, Damon can't as easily submit to merely the pursuit of pleasure.

In the course of the journey, there are a number of border crossings, both geographical and symbolical, and Damon emphasises the difference between those who need a visa to cross the border and those who do not. Damon admits to being afraid of crossing borders, and leaving the safe behind in favour of a space beyond where anything can happen, but he also says that this is why he travels. It turns out that nothing is impossible in the borderland.

In this part of the novel there is also a strong emphasis on the distance between words and meanings. Damon meets a young European whose English is quite bad. In order to communicate properly, they need an interpreter. However, the presence of the interpreter is seen as intrusive, and their clumpsy attempts at speaking English together is mere mimickry of proper speech, where the European resorts to stock phrases and direct translations from the dictionary. Similarly, Damon is at some point denied entry in a country, and the official is hinting for a bribe, but Damon does not pick up on the hint until it is almost too late.

After the journey in Southern Africa comes to an end, Damon decides to visit Jerome, the European, in Switzerland. The visit is a good one, but Damon is confused as to Jerome's wishes for them. As Jerome is away in the army during the week, Damon eventually leaves and has very little contact with him for quite a long time, as he travels around in Europe by himself.

Once more the ending is filled with disappointment, and even grief, perhaps anticipating the actions in the third part in the novel. Damon is left with questions of whether or not he could have acted differently.

In the third part, Damon brings a close friend, who happens to be suffering under a very strong depression, to India with him. It quickly becomes apparent that the friend he used to know has transformed into a stranger after the illness took hold of her. Once more there's a power theme at work, and a question of who's in power of the situation of the two. The situation grows worse and worse until it reaches a crisis. Once more there is also a conflict with language, and, as Damon underlines, an insufficiency of language. His friend has entered a terrain where words have no power, and she has forced Damon to follow her there.

The three parts together make up a sort of journey into the self, into the deep dark Damon. His powerlessness, his perhaps petty victories, his insecurity, his fears. And while it is a strange room, it is also a familiar room. The familiar room where you are forced to question yourself and you don't necessarily like what you see. The familiar room of the confrontation you fear. This is a novel that really makes you think and reflect.

I loved being in Damon Galgut's strange room. I will probably revisit it often.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne

I just read the Norwegian edition of The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne, successful author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (which I haven't read). This is apparently Boyne's first "adult" book, and I have to say he's done a great job at this novel!

The novel is about Georgy, the peasant youth who suddenly finds his own situation elevated to that of bodyguard of Alexei Romanov, the heir to the Russian throne. The country is at war, though, and in the midst of this, Georgy soon has to battle with his own loyalty to the throne, and the increasing internal Bolshevik threat. For Georgy the choice is simple, though: he is in love with the Emperor's youngest daughter Anastasia, and he will do anything to protect her.

The narrative is split in two. On the one hand we have the story of Georgy as a young man serving the Russian throne and trying to keep his relationship to Anastasia a secret from her parents. On the other hand we have Georgy's present story (1981). He is now an old man living in exile in London with his wife Zoya, who is dying of cancer. The story swaps between the "youth Georgy's" story, and "old Georgy's" story. Whilst the events revealed of "youth Georgy's" story follow a chronological sequence, the events of "old Georgy's" story gradually go backwards in time, so that at the end of the novel, the two stories meet, before finally reaching a climax in the present tense. This narrative technique keeps the suspence longer. In "old Georgy's" story, he might refer to an event that has happened, but it's only later, as he returns to the time of the event that the reader fully grasps why the event turned out to be so important. For instance we learn that Georgy and Zoya lived in Paris for a while, but that they left because of what happened to a friend of theirs. What exactly it was that happened is only revealed when the story has regressed so far back in time that they are back in Paris once more.

I often find that reading is a learning experience. I have to admit that I know very little of the Russian Romanov dynasty and the Russian revolution. But in reading this novel I became quite interested in learning more. So I did some research whilst I was still reading it, and learned that the whole royal family were killed during the revolution, including Anastasia, who Georgy loves. So then comes the mystery of Georgy's wife Zoya, who could only be Anastasia, and the question of how she came to survive. Whilst we do get an answer to that question, some questions remain shrouded in mystery at the close of the novel.

I really loved The House of Special Purpose. The complexity of the narrative made it more interesting. The story of the poor peasant who finds himself in the lap of luxury is fairy-tale like and fascinating, and Georgy's experience of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg makes it accessible to the reader. The story of love and loyalty through the ages is beautiful and touching. I also love that Georgy is so human in his complexity. He embodies both bravery and cowardice, strength and weakness at the same time, and the dichotomy between power and helplessness is very present in him, as well as working as a sort of theme in the story as a whole. This is visible through how the Emperor, who supposedly was chosen by God, is eventually rendered powerless to protect his family against the Bolsheviks.

This is also a story of loss. We learn that Zoya and Georgy have a daughter who passes away, leaving her young son Michael behind. Whereas Zoya and Georgy grieve the loss of their daughter, Michael has to learn to live without his mother. And, when Zoya is diagnosed with cancer, Georgy has to start preparing himself for a life of solitude. The loss of your country (and your identity) through exile is also a strong presence in the story. Zoya and Georgy's visit to Russia later in their life proves the thesis "you can't go home again".

The House of Special Purpose is well-written and well composed. You come to really care for the main protagonists and you believe in their story. If you're easily moved, like I am, be sure to be armed with Kleenex, at least for the final pages.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Gyldendals XS - LIKE!

I just started reading the Norwegian translation of Damon Galgut's In a Strange Room. Gyldendal, the Norwegian publisher, has decided to publish the book in their XS-series, a series that appeals to me both esthetically and thematically.

The XS-series are translated hardcover titles in a smaller format, so they fit nicely inside my handbag, and look super cute lined up on a bookshelf together.

I also love the XS conept (freely translated excerpt from Gyldendal's website):
The XS - series consists of books which might not be physically big, but which still has a large literary potential.
The XS-series houses original, "genreless" works which brings new perspectives, thoughts and literary images into Norwegian literature.
The titles are innovative and the reader will not have encoutered such a book before.

XS can stand for excess, as something that transgresses borders.
XS can stand for extra large, or extra small, and this dichotomy fits the series.

The design is also pretty awesome. Small, cute and clean. I like a lot.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna | The Indian Tragedy

Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna is truly a Bollywoodesque tragedy of a Devdasian calibre. Devdas being one of the most tragic, melodramatic Bollywood movies I have ever seen. Here the tears are shed among the men as well as the women, the impossible love as heart-wrenching for the parties involved, as well as for those responsible for inflicting this pain.

And I have to say, Indian authors truly know their tragedies. A Fine Balance, An Atlas of Impossible Longings, The Palace of Illusions, and Evening is the Whole Day are just a few of the Indian novels I've read that spring to mind. From the back cover blurb, I knew that the story would be sad: "a decision that has heartbreaking consequences for generations to come...". Duly warned, but warning ignored.

The story even starts with foreshadowing. As Devi is born, her mother knows she is special. The several omens gives the story a fairy tale-like effect, bringing to mind The Palace of Illusions, which is the rewriting of an Indian myth. Devi's mother fastens an amulet on her daughter to keep the evil eye away from her. In many ways I am tempted to read this novel as a sort of Indian Things Fall Apart, as the society described is one where the tension between Indian tradition comes into conflict with "modern" British culture. The story is set in at the end of the 1800s to the early 1900s, a period of growing nationalism in India. The political unrest, however, is a mere backdrop for the story itself.

Devi gains a brother when a mother in the community commits suicide, leaving her son Devanna behind. Devanna and Devi grow up practically as brother and sister, doing everything together. Devanna is satisfied with only Devi as his companion, but the wilful Devi wants more. When the first tiger is killed in decades, and Devi attends the "tiger wedding" to celebrate the hunter, Devi's life suddenly takes a new turn, and destiny makes her strong presence on the scene. Devi knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is her man. Machu, the tiger killer, however, sees Devi as only a child.

Nine years pass before Devi once again sees Machu. Nine years of waiting and being convinced that if he only sees her - because she has turned into an unparalleled beauty in the mean time - he will also know that they belong together. Devi is so focussed on Machu that she is blind to the fact that Devanna, her brother in all but blood, nourishes as strong a conviction that she belongs to him. As events unfold, it becomes more and more clear that there will be no happy ending, and destiny weaves a web of secrets, unhappiness and suffering that the characters must go through.

After reading this story, I wrote a somewhat detailed summary of the plot for my boyfriend, whose response was: "these people have terrible communication skills. It's ridiculous". He's so right. Many times in the novel, I thought to myself, if they could only talk to each other, tell each other what's wrong, then things wouldn't have turned out this way. The author mentions that people from Coorg are notoriously proud, so there seems to be a reason behind their lack of communicating shame and pain, hopes and dreams deferred. And at the same time, I am also aware of what kind of book I am reading. This is a tragedy after all. What can go wrong will go wrong, and most of the time it'll be a lot worse than the reader can imagine.

What's fascinating about the story, is how matter-of-factly the tragedies occur. The author does not brood on these events. People die without the last forgiveness, the last spoken acknowledgement. So-and-so dies, and then life goes on. So-and-so has a stroke, and then life goes on. So-and-so is abused, and then life goes on. Because life has to go on. That's what happens in Coorg. In contrast to this, the book also asks the question: "how do you grieve what you on paper have no right to grieve?", and "how do you live a lie so completely that it is your entire life?".

None of the characters are saints, or demons for that matter. You sympathise and critisise all of them. Devi, although the heroine, is both selfish and cruel. Devanna, who is kind to a fault, is too kind, too quiet, too scared of confrontation. Machu, the man of action, shows himself to be passive and blind. The author shows us all the reasons, all the whys of every antagonist's action. I find that to be a very interesting approach to the story. It does not excuse the actions, but it shows us how that action came to be.

There is a lot of symbolism in this story. The omens that foreshadows tragic events. The parallel stories that shed light on people's relationships in the book. The garden at the Tiger Hills estate, and a special Bamboo flower. Fragile earrings made from wings for a very fragile beauty. All coming together to make a very neat story. Additionally, the author writes beautiful prose that makes the landscape, the scenes and the people truly come alive.

Tiger Hills consumed me whole. I was sucked into the story, heart and soul, and it's been a long time since I was this engulfed by a novel. So many stories of love and loss make up this book, and Mandanna makes me want to know more of all of them. As I read the end, page 591, I really wanted there to be about another 100 pages left. I might have read the book to the end, but I am not nearly done with it yet. Not by a long shot.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann | Balancing the stories of the city

Oh wow. Reading Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann was such a treat. I've been taken on a journey to 1974 New York, and delivered right back into the present, intact and improved.

Using the 1974 high-wire walk of Phillipe Petit as a starting point, the writer introduces the readers to a group of narrators whose lives all changed in this very day. The narrators are all different, ranging from the Irishman visiting his "undercover-priest" brother, the hooker, the computer hacker, the wealthy but lonely Park Avenue housewife grieving her dead son, her unlikely new best friend from the Bronx, the former artist who has been living a 1920s lifestyle, and the high-wire walker himself. All of them are connected somehow, but how is only revealed little by little.

What really impressed me with all these different narrators, is how completely different and individual each one's voice is. McCann writes beautifully, evocatively and convinsingly for each person. Each of them stand out, and it is clear that they are all telling their own story of the city. Some of it truly beautiful, while some is ugly and dark. One of the narrators talks about the high-wire walk as "an attempt at beauty. The intersection of a man with the city, the abruptly reformed, the newly appropriated public space, the city as art" (2009, p. 103), but she also sees it as "Something vulgar.../ Or maybe not vulgar. Something cheap" (ibid.).

Another narrator views the event differently: "Every now and then the city shook its soul out. It assailed you with an image, or a day, or a crime, or a terror, or a beauty so difficult to wrap your mind around that you had to shake your head in disbelief" (p. 247).

McCann tries to capture this dichotomy of the city, and he is successful. And all the while, the high-wire walk stands as a centrepiece, as a sort of mystery inside the narrative, retaining the tension, keeping the story "tight" and swaying with the breeze. On the novel's first page, the spectators of the high-wire walk are as enthralled as I was as a reader of this book: "None of them had yet made sense of the line strung at his feet from one tower to the other. Rather, it was the manshape that held them there, their necks craned, torn between the promise of doom and the disappointment of the ordinary" (p. 3).
The line could in a larger sense be the line that connects the narrators of this book. And the expectations are the same for the viewers as for the readers.

What instantly struck me when I started reading this novel, is the unusual metaphors and striking similies. "Revolving doors pushed quarters of conversations out into the street" (p. 4).

New Yorks is a "city with its fingers in the garbage, a city that ate off dirty dishes" (p. 32).

The "undercover"-priest Corrigan's prayers and psalms "staked him to a purpose" (p. 21) and he's later "in the cramped space of his own prayers" (p. 71).

While the novel focuses strongly on the city, there is also a strong theme of loss, and war. Many of the narrators of this novel have lost someone close to them in the Vietnam war. The Twin Towers the high-wire walker chooses as his stage, is today a symbol of the war against terror. Thus the mourning mothers of the story echo the mourning mothers of New York after 9/11, both those who suffered immediate losses then, and all of those who've lost their sons to the war against terror.

Despite the strong themes of loss, there is also one of hope. The city might take, but it also gives. Two young girls who lose their mother are taken in by one of our narrators, and are given a new chance in life. At the end of the book, we suddenly find ourselves in 2006 New York, and one of these girls is narrating her story. And her story does not repeat that of long line of hookers in her past.

This is a beautifully written novel, one which deserves reading, studying, discussions, contemplations, admirations. I loved it, and I felt like I was part of a mystery, the mystery of the city as I was reading it. I've never felt any strong desire to visit New York, but I do now.

Read it and weep. Read it and laugh. Or both. Just read it!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cupcakes og muffins | En vakker munnfull (eller to)

Kokebøker i disse dager peker i to ganske forskjellige retninger: lavkarbo og cupcakes. På tross av at lavkarbo kan se både lekkert ut og smake godt, er nok cupcakes mer up my alley. De er små, søte, og smaker utroooolig godt. Og så er det så mange morsomme varianter. Du har alt fra klassiske sjokolade-cupcakes, til mer spennende varianter som Oreo-cupcakes, Tiramisu-cupcakes, ja, og til og me Mojito-cupcakes! Hvorfor gå lavkarbo og raw når smaksløkene kan meske seg i slike sanselige godbiter?

Anyway. Tenkte bare å nevne noen av de flotte cupcakes-bøkene som er i salg for tiden. Får jo ganske god oversikt over de beste etterhvert.

The Hummingbird Bakery-kakeboken har mange herlige fristelser, og begrenser seg ikke til bare cupcakes. Her er det også en fristende blåbærkake, en brownies-ostekake med bringebær, biscotti, gulrotkake, og selvfølgelig mange spennende cupcakes. Boken har helt nyyydelige bilder som for en kakemoms som meg så godt som er til å spise opp.

Et lite minus for min del er at noen av oppskriftene inneholder litt "sære" ting, som hvitvinseddik. Dessuten ble ikke sjokolademuffinsene med ostefyll så gode som håpet. Dette kan selvsagt ha mer med mine begrensede kakebakeskills enn med selve oppskriften, men dette har gjort meg en smule skeptisk.

Fantastisk koselige Tante Ingers Tehus i Tromsø lager ofte kaker fra denne boken, med stort hell, så det er ingen tvil om at boken er bra. Til syvende og sist foretrekker jeg kokebøker av norske forfattere, ettersom oppskriftene er beregnet på hva som er tilgjenelig i norske butikker/husholdninger, og steketider er mer riktig.

Paul Løwes fantastiske Cupcakes er et billigere alternativ om man vil få inspirasjon til et vidt spekter av cupcakes (199,-). Boken er spiralbundet, som gjør at den er lett å ha oppslått på kjøkkenet.

Bildene er skikkelig fargeglade, lekne og vakre. Her finner man alle typer cupcakes (vanilje, sjokolade, osv), med og uten tema (påske, jul, dåp, bryllup), søte og "savoury" (ikke-søte cupcakes med som passer bra som lunsjretter/fingermat).

Her er det mindre fokus på hvilken sprøytespiss som skal brukes til frostingen, og på å ha en høyest mulig cupcake. Jeg er ikke så glad i for mye frosting, og ettersom jeg ikke har sånne fancy kakepyntesprøyter, passer det egentlig bra for meg:)

Cupcakes av Cheryl Lindblad er et enda billigere alternativ blant Cupcakes-bøkene (79,-). Dette er ikke den mest omfangsrike cupcakes-boken. Her får man en rekke basic cupcakes, samt noen spennende og svært fristende alternativer. Jeg synes også listen på begynnelsen av boken, med forskjellige typer frosting, er veldig fin. Oppskriftene har gjerne en liten personlig notis hvor forfatteren kommer med tips og preferanse angående hvilken frosting som passer best, osv. I tillegg er det også råd om pynting (feks. silkepapir), frosting-sprøyter, og annet. Forfatteren er originalt svensk, og det godkjennes ettersom jeg syns svensker er fantastiske;)

Og så kremen, eller frostingen, til sist, da. Min favoritt for now. En nydelig gjennomført "heldesignet" (heter det det?) bok. Et praktverk. Ja, hva annet kan det være enn Cupcakes - Lag dem selv av Ingrid Hancock Bjerknes?

Ja, og så er den ROSA i tillegg! Kan det bli bedre? Omslaget er fantastisk. Innsiden av coveret har et nydelig blomstermønster. Sidene er delikate, i matt papirkvalitet. Hver enkelt side har et bakgrunnsdesign i en dus og lekker farge. Alt fra font til border er rett og slett perfekt, og gir meg en sterk nostalgisk følelse. Bildene er vakre og innbydende.

Design aside (nå som det er fastslått at jeg ELSKER det), er det noen gode oppskrifter? Ja, masse!!! Her er det cupcakes cupcakes cupcakes. Og MASSE frosting. Så over the top (eller at the top) boken er, er også frosting-mengden som ble brukt in the making of this book.

Iallefall. Her finner jeg oppskriftene som oppfyller bakebehovene jeg ikke visste at jeg hadde. Dette er med andre ord the ipad of Cupcake books.

-Baileys-cupcakes. Testet. Hit the spot (ok, jeg juksa og lagde med Amarula og en sterkt redusert mengde frosting - men ååååh så godt! Se bilde). -Mojito-cupcakes skal snart testes (hallo! Mojito og cupcakes i én og samme! Kan det bli bedre?). -Jordbær- og Champagne-cupcakes er på lista, sammen med Cookies-cupcakes. Ja, og så er det en drøss med andre vel så fristende cupcakes og masse frosting- og pyntetips til de mer seriøse cupcakes-lagerne.

Denne boka koster litt mer (349,- samme som Hummingbird), men jeg synes den er verdt det. Den flotteste og beste, som man kan bruke aktivt, samt ha som dekor på sitt coffeetable (om man har ett).

Kanskje Cappelen Damm bør vurdere noen spin-off produkter til boka, alá Humminbird?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb | Unlikely heroes and the search for identity

Dragon Haven is the second (and last) part of The Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb, and picks up where Dragon Keeper left off. Our group of unlikely heroes, ranging from outcasts and youth who are "heavily marked" by the Rain Wilds, to a Bingtown "dragon expert" and her secretary, are travelling up the Rain Wild River accompanying a group of illmade dragons to the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra. No one has been this far up the Rain Wild River before, and the travelling is slow and full of hazards, not least from inside the group itself. Different members of the group have their own agendas, and the dragons are unpredictable at best.

In her later works, Hobb has become increasingly apt at using unlikely heroes as heroes in her books. What is problematic in Dragon Keeper, is that I'm not really sure who is the hero(s) here, if there are any. The story has several focalizors, and the reader often expects the focalizors to be heroes in the story. But most of them seem to be too enraptured in their own problems to stand up as a major hero in the story. The group is made up of "unwanted" people in their own society. Unwanted youth because of their physical differences to "normal" people. An unwanted wife and lover. Unwanted dragons. And the river barge Tarman with his crew. In the process of the journey they all have to struggle and work together to survive, and that seems to be Hobb's essential message. We can all be heroes, but we need each other. [Very unlike the highborn classical hero in The Farsees Trilogy and The Tawny Man trilogy.]

In their process of searching for Kelsingra, most of the characters (including the dragons), also look for a new identity from what has been imposed on them in Bingtown, Trehaug and Cassarick. This is expressed in a lot of different ways. For Thymara, a dragon keeper who was born with claws, her new-found independence becomes essential. She refuses even to bow to her dragon, Sintara, on the basis that she can see Sinatara for what she really is. For Sedric, the "Bingtown suave", events force him to stop setting himself apart from the rest of the group, and he unwittingly finds himself getting a close bond to one of the "slow" dragons. What is interesting here, is that when the so-called "slow" dragons grow a bond to a person, the dragon develops. Again Hobb's notion that we need each other. As people change and assert new identities, redemption is found for those who need/ask for it.

I'd say that Dragon Haven is the most romantic novel of Hobb's oevre. There's a lot of love here, of all kinds. Friendly love. Romantic love both gay and straight. Love of nature. Love of the self.

What I love about this book is that *finally* some of the mysteries of the Rain Wild River is revealed. I've loved this universe of Robin Hobb's, and I love the cross-references between the different series that take place in this world. Fitz from The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man visited Kelsingra in Assassin's Quest, but the mysteries surrounding the place were not really revealed. The Elderlings Malta and Reyn along with the dragon Tintaglia from The Liveship Traders are mentioned, but do not make an entry in this book. On Hobb's website, she reveals that she is currently working on a book picking up where Dragon Haven leaves off (yay!). And where is that? Well, let's just say the story's most unlikely hero rises from the ranks and saves the day. This is probably also the neatest of Hobb's endings. Neat, while there's still plenty of mystery to leave my hungry for more.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer has just been translated into Norwegian by Gyldendal Norsk Forlag. I recently read the book, and although I was a bit sceptical at first (it was very long, and names of places and people were Hungarian or French mostly), I am thrilled I gave it a chance. The Invisible Bridge is a stunning novel that drew me in completely and still hasn't let go.

This is the story of Andras Levi, the Hungarian Jew who goes to Paris at the end of the 1930s to study architecture. He falls in love with a beautiful ballet instructor, who left Hungary years before under mysterious circumstances. Andras' life in Paris is full of art, theatre, and the daily struggle to make ends meet, as well as the growing hostility towards Jews and the inevitability of the coming war.

As the war breaks out in Europe, Andras and Klara are torn from their friends in Paris, and forced to go back to Budapest. The borders close between the countries, and it becomes impossible for Andras to get a new visa to continue his precious studies. As allies to nazi Germany, Hungary forces its people to participate in the war efforts. Along with other Jews, Andras has to abandon a desolate Klara behind to serve his time in the work camps. As time passes in the camps, it becomes increasingly clear to Andras that the Jews are meant to die in these camps.

Orringer has really written a grand novel. It braces so many things, from the everyday life of Andras in Paris of architectural solutions, a personal life filled with longings and love and theatrical intrigues, to the horrors and deprivations of war, and the small sparks of hope that makes you go on. What strikes me is that she really contrasts what happens before and during the war. Andras lives such a full life, a life that the reader believes in. From his everyday struggles of finding work, to his agony on behalf of his brother who wants to study medicine, to finally lying huddled in a bomb shelter, starved and at the brink of death.

I think this novel is really important in the tradition of remembering, and as a warning. Reading it, I could not help but notice that there are a lot of similarities between the animosity towards Jews before WW2, and how Muslims are viewed today. And taking into account recent events in Norway, it is even more important to check ones own attitudes towards the "Other". The Invisible Bridge reminds us that all people are worth the same, and that there really is no difference between us. We must stand together and help each other.

I was deeply moved by this novel. Orringer really hit a nerve with her thoroughly researched book, and I think she has done a tremendous job. This book should be read by everyone everywhere. Read. Enjoyed. Wept to. Laughed with.

As a closing note, I want to add that I think the Norwegian cover is just stunning. Great job Gyldendal! And the translation is excellent.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Kinamann av Brynjulf Jung Tjønn

Kinamann av Brynjulf Jung Tjønn blir utgitt på Cappelen Damm i disse dager. Dette er en type roman med sterke selvbiografiske trekk. Jung Tjønn innrømmer selv at det meste av barndomsminnene som utgjør en sentral del av boken er basert på hans egen oppvekst.

I Kinamann blir vi kjent med Gjermund Brekke, arving til Brekke gård, og adoptert fra Sør-Korea. I voksen alder har Brekke flyttet til Oslo hvor han jobber som forfatter, giftet seg, fått barn, og venter en til. Gjermund har i hele sitt liv slitt med tanker omkring identitet, og en følelse av å være annerledes. Han er en kinamann i Norge. Utseendet hans strider imot hans identitet som odelsgutt. Nå som han er blitt far føler Gjermund en sterkere trang til å finne sine egne røtter slik at han kan tilby barna sine en mer fast identitet enn han selv føler at han har.

Gjermund tilbringer stadig tid foran speilet i et forsøk på å forene utseende sitt med sin identitet. Ansiktet hans skiller seg fra de hvite ansiktene han ser hver dag. Han har et sterkt behov for å finne ut hvor han har fått akkurat disse trekkene fra. Hva er historien til foreldrene hans? Var hans biologiske far en voldtektsmann, og deler Gjermund da genene til denne mannen? Elsket de biologiske foreldrene hverandre? Hvorfor ga de da fra seg barnet sitt? Elsket hans biologiske mor ham?

Samtidig som Gjermund trenger et svar på disse spørsmålene, er han svært takknemlig til sine norske adoptivforeldre. Hans kjærlighet til dem er iblandet en dose mindreverdighetskompleks. Var han det barnet de ønsket? Har han klart å fylle det rommet i livet deres?

Gjermund velger å skrive om identitetskrisen (?) sin, og han tenker at det kanskje kan bli en roman. Han tar med seg sin lille familie på besøk til gården hvor foreldrene hans fortsatt bor. Her vekkes minner fra barndommen til live igjen, og Gjermund må finne en slags mening i hendelser som har satt sitt preg på han. Igjen er det spørsmål om identitet som står sentralt. Hva er plassen hans i familien? Hva er plassen hans på skolen? Og i hvor stor grad har det at Gjermund ser annerledes ut, påvirket hans identitet i forhold til andre?

Gjermunds beslutning om å reise til Sør-Korea for første gang virker uungåelig. Han skal besøke barnehjemmet hvor han tilbragte sine første to leveår, og vandre i de samme gatene som hans biologiske mor har gjort. Allerede på flyet kjenner Gjermund en følelse han aldri har kjent før:

"For første gang i livet har jeg stått oppreist i offentligheten og ikke følt at folk har stirret på meg fordi jeg ser annerledes ut. For første gang i livet har jeg følt at ingen har snudd seg, sett en ekstra gang på meg, fordi jeg har smale øyne, gyllen hud og sort, stritt hår. For første gang har jeg følt meg anonym/ En helt vanlig mann. Et helt normalt menneske. Du, Gjermund Brekke."

Men i Sør-Korea føler Gjermund seg fortsatt annerledes. Her ser han ut som han tilhører, men språk og kultur gjør at han ikke passer inn, han føler seg som en outsider. Og han spør seg selv om Sør-Koreanere kan se på han at han er en av de mange som ble adoptert bort.

Jeg ønsker ikke å gå stort nærmere inn på mer av bokens handling, annet enn å nevne at Gjermund gir seg i kast med å skrive sin historie om han ikke hadde blidd adoptert bort. Romanen ender både med håp og frustrasjon. Gjermund har fått svar på mange av spørsmålene som holdt han våken om nettene, samtidig som at vi som lesere sitter igjen med et nytt spørsmål.

Jeg synes Jung Tjønn lykkes med prosjektet sitt. Han setter ord på mange problemstillinger som jeg tror både adopterte, "nye" nordmenn, og andre som har spørsmål om sin identitet og tilhørighet vil få nytte av. Romanen er svært velskrevet og godt oppbygget. I lys av 22.07.11 er dette også en viktig bok som bør leses av mange. Kinamann anbefales sterkt.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Julius Winsome by Gerard Donovan | Shakespearean words and violence

Julius Winsome has just been translated into Norwegian, and got the title Vinter i Maine. When it arrived at my bookshop I was immediately drawn in by the cover, and when we got a reading copy from the publisher, I knew I had to read it.

The story evolves around Julius Winsome, a loner who lives in the middle of a desolate hunting area in Maine. The novel begins as his four-legged companion, Hobbes, is shot, and Julius has to bury his only friend. Julius is in many ways a strange man, but his grief is authentic and I as the reader really emphatised with him.

The setting of this novel really underlines the themes. The isolation of Julius' cottage and his isolation as a person go hand in hand. We learn that Julius' mother died giving birth to him, and that Julius lived with his father in this cottage until his father passed away. He has literally grown up walled in by books, as book shelves go from one wall to the next. Julius was brought up rehearsing Shakespearean words, and sometimes hearing tales of war from his father and grandfather. Ironically, the Winsome men are men of few words (although they're vocabulary is larger than most people's). This again creates a gap between Julius and other people. The world makes more sense to him when he can describe it with Shakespearean words. However, he points out that when he uses the Shakespearean words, he might as well be barking, because people don't understand him. At one point he has a girlfriend, but she abandons him just as suddenly as she showed up at his door.

The use of Shakespeare's words is also connected to the violence of the story. Shakespeare's works are full of violence and treachery, and since Julius knows little of other people apart from malevolence and betrayal, he finds comfort in hiding behind the shield of words. This works both literally, as his house is a stronghold of books, and his haven, as well as figuratively, in that he uses the words to perhaps feel distinct and above others.

A strong theme in this novel is nature, and how we live with it. For Julius, the forest is part of him, almost. He is safe in nature, he can read it and communicate with it. Julius knows a lot about hunting, camouflage, weapons, yet he seems to have a strong distaste for hunters. It is as if the animals of the forest somehow are kin to him, and the hunters are overstepping this bond. After his dog Hobbes is shot, Julius is determined to find who shot him, and balance things out. An eye for an eye, so to speak. It is clear that Julius' solitude, which has survived the loss of mother, father, lover, cannot survive the loss of Hobbes. Ironically, Hobbes is Julius' last symbolic connection to other people, as it was his ex girlfriend who suggested he get a dog. Once Hobbes is dead, that bond is severed, and Julius' isolation is complete. The reaction is a revenge plot.

This novel is truly beautifully written. Julius is authentic, and as a narrator he is quiet but telling. The story is tender, despite its violence. Julius bares his soul to us, showing us his hurt and solitude without asking for pity. Despite his isolation, he is a reflected man; he knows what he is doing. And his acts of violence are, if not justified, then at least reasonable to himself. I also find him quite kick-ass, and would love to see a movie where the revenge hero inflicts a deadly wound on someone, only to quote Shakespeare to them. In his quiet way, this novel is Julius' demand to be seen and recognised by the world. I for one came to care deeply for him... And I was truly sad when the novel ended.

Read it.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansen

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansen was recently translated into Norwegian by Juritzen Forlag.

I saw the book on the shelf, read the blurb, and decided that I had to read it. I was in for a pleasurable and moving journey through Addy Shadd's life.

Addy Shadd is in her 70s and suddenly finds herself responsible for 6-year old Sharla who has been abandoned by her mother. Her initial misgivings aside, Addy quickly comes to realise that she can love Sharla like a mother, and the two become central in each other's lives. Addy, because Sharla needs a mother figure who loves her and who will actually raise her right, and Sharla, because Addy needs a child in her life to come to terms with all the disappointments and sorrows she's faced.

A central conflict in the story is how Addy is literally forced to abandon her home town Rusholme, leaving everything she loves behind, to start alone elsewhere. Addy's character builds strenght as she goes along, but there is always this pull to rush home. However, the wounds connected to Rusholme run too deep, and Addy resists this pull.

The kindness of strangers is a strong motif in this book. Addy herself is an example of this through taking Sharla in, but her own experiences of being helped by strangers might be the reason for her openness. Addy leaves Rusholme without money or food, but her kind heart and honest soul makes people help her and take to her. Addy finds friends she comes to love, and she manages to start a new life.

I found it interesting how important food is in the novel. For Sharla, it is central because at her mother's place she was often barely fed, and when fed, fed badly. For Addy, on the other hand, food is attached to identity, place and memory. Food is what connects her to her family. The apple snow her mother taught her to make as a young girl, is her father's favourite, and Addy knows how to make it just right. Addy in turn teaches Sharla how to make it, to heal a wound inside herself. Further, Addy's cooking skills have helped her make friends and to be useful when she's had to rely on others.

The story evolves around how Sharla and Addy interact and change through each other's influence, as well as the story of Addy's life. At times the story is deeply moving, even shockingly so, but it also has a light and funny tone. The end of the book, in which Addy finally rushes home to Rusholme becomes a symbolic home-coming for the both of them, and is beautifully, beautifully written. This is a novel that really comes full circle and that lets the reader down gently at the end.

Simply a must-read. Have your Kleenex ready.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë was my first classical read. And to this day, it remains my favourite. We read an excerpt in school, and watched the 1996 movie version, which I enjoyed. Later I borrowed the book from a phd friend of my aunts, and true love was found. Since then I've read the book a few times, as well as all the other Brontë titles.

In 2006 BBC made an excellent Jane Eyre tv series. They really managed to capture the passion, emotions and underlying tensions the book holds. I loved their use of colour, especially for Bertha and Blanche. The chemistry between Mr Rochester and Jane is simply outstanding and they really make the story come to life. As a whole, they make Jane Eyre more accessible to a more modern audience. oh, and Toby Stephens is my number one Mr Rochester to date. *blush*

A few days ago I went to see the latest Jane Eyre movie (2011). I had read some excellent reviews on it, and I was really looking forward to seeing it. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. Now, obviously, it is unfair for a movie of 2 hours to compete with a tv series of 4 hours. Naturally the movie has to convey in a much briefer period of time the book's essence. However, I cannot help but wonder at some of the choices that were made.

Bertha is all but invisible in the film. There are hardly any trace of her, and the famous "veil-ripping" scene doesn't happen here. I miss the tension built up in the series and I thought there would be more of her here.

A character that got a lot more room than I thought necessary, was St. John. And in fact, the focus on Jane's life after Thornfield, when she is taken in by St. John and his sisters have a lot more focus than I feel is warranted for such a short movie. I'd rather have more Jane and Mr Rochester than Moor House.

I actually liked Michael Fassbender as Mr Rochester (although he comes nowhere near Toby Stephens), but something was missing in the chemistry between him and Jane. Mia Wasikowska makes a reliable Jane, and I really liked that she's young, but I miss some warmth and emotion from her.

One touch I really liked, however, is that they managed to include the lightning struck tree after the proposal scene. Nice touch!

All in all not a bad movie, but I guess I was hoping for something that was more influenced by how well done the tv series was. With classics, there'll be another remake in about 10 years, however, so I can look forward to a life time of Jane Eyre movies. And in the meantime I'll enjoy the tv series one more time on DVD.

Below: a treat. One of my fave scenes from the BBC version. Just showing a new side to Jane.