Stikkordarkiv: boksirkel

Let it Snow Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle

Let it Snow, or more specifically John Green’s story «A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle», was my suggested Christmas read in the book circle, based on very little other than «not too long, christmassy and John Green». The books is a collection of, well, not short stories, I guess novellas might be a better description. Three stories by three different writers, all at just over 100 pages, and with the common theme «Christmas» and «romance». And, yes, YA as target market, I guess. All three stories are tied together into a whole, something I did not realise at first, as I suggested (and read) the middle story by Green for the book circle. It may all have made even more sense if I’d started at the beginning, but it worked well enough in a jubled order as well.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green is a charming story. Admittedly the ending is hardly a surprise, but the main action driver, the quest to get to the Waffle House in a blizzard, is at least original, and provides plenty of comic relief, and the build up is sufficiently long and with enough quirky personality details that by the end I care for the characters. And this being John Green there are plenty of little nuggets of, well, for lack of a better word, wisdom. It helps, of course, that the characters are people I recognise as «my people» (i.e. nerds/geeks) of course. On the whole I am reminded that I meant to read more Green despite not being completely sold on The Fault in Our Stars (not because it wasn’t good, I just didn’t think it was The Best Book Ever™, like the interwebz had led me to belive I might.

Maureen Johnsons story The Jubilee Express was in some ways even better, and quirky in a «that’s preposterous but utterly believable» way. Lauren Myracle’s The Patron Saint of Pigs was somewhat more frustrating, since the main character is being quite infuriating for much of the story, but it somehow came together nicely at the end. For a bit of YA romancey Christmas cheer you could do much worse altogether.

(And I know I am publishing this in August and Christmas is the last thing on most sane people’s minds, but I did actually read the book at Christmas, it’s just that the post has been languishing in the drafts folder while I have been off doing non-bookblogging things. At least you now have plenty of time to order the book from you favourite pusher and have it arrive in time for the festive season.)

A couple of shorts

No, not short trousers, short reviews.

bryson_dribblingThe Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson moved swiftly to the top of my reading pile when my parents off-loaded their copy on us and was consumed within a few days of my getting my hands on it. No wonder, perhaps, Bryson being one of my favourite writers and Notes from a Small Island probably my favourite of his books. And in many respects The Road to Little Dribbling fulfills its promises. Here is the pure delight in travelling, especially by bus in Britain, that I so recognise. Here is the love for the more absurd aspects of Englishness. Here are the masses of odd little anecdotes and facts that Bryson is a master of. But I was, perhaps strangely, disappointed anyway. Partly because I have lamented the lack of Scotland in the previous volume, and here I was promised Scotland and then it turns out that England take up 355 of the book’s 381 pages, Wales (not that I mind Wales) 15 and Scotland a measly 11. And partly, well, in parts it feels a little… stale? It’s not that I didn’t like it, I did, but I guess I didn’t LOVE it. But lets think of happier things and quote a bit I do like (love):

I was surprised to learn that there is a system to British road numbering, but then I remembered that it is a British system, which means it is not like systems elsewhere. The first principle of a British system is that it should only appear systematic. (Page 142.)

leif_engerPeace Like a River by Leif Enger was our book circle book over Christmas, and I rather enjoyed it while reading it. However, it’s  now a month later and I find I can’t really remember what was so good about it, and though the plot is pretty clear to me, the feelings it generated have not made a lasting impression. A bit of a luke-warm recommendation, then. The book circle were split in their opinions, some couldn’t finish the book, while others, like me, were more enthusiastic.

roy_godofsmallthingsThen for our February meeting we read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and again, the reception was mixed. I found it slow to begin with, but then, suddenly, at around 120 pages, it turned a corner and after that I could hardly put it down. There is someting compelling about the way Roy takes us back and forth between past and present and the quirks of the language were wonderful, I thought.

Bluegreyblue eyes snapped open.

A Wake.
A Live.
A Lert.

(Page 238.) Some of the others struggled with keeping the characters straight, and I suppose the Mammachis and Kochammas may easily get a little muddled, but this was not a problem for me. Slight spoiler alert here: There is a scene at the cinema where Estha is abused by the lemonade man, and although it is unpleasant reading, it is also rather wonderful in the way Roy manages to write the scene from the little boy’s point of view as simply nauseating and horrible without any hint of an adult’s sexualised perception intruding on the description. I find that a rare thing.

The Glass Castle – Jeanette Walls

walls_theglasscastleThe Glass Castle was the April pick for my book club, so it’s been a while since I finished it, but I didn’t want to leave it completely unmentioned here on the blog, despite not having felt the blogging groove lately.

I found Walls’ story utterly fascinating. She describes a highly dysfunctional family, but does it in such loving terms (even when she’s obviously angry and frustrated, she never sounds bitter). Perhaps it’s easier to forgive incompetent parents when they despite everything they don’t provide, at least provide you with plenty of spunk, a curiosity about the world and belief in yourself?

Suffice it to say that I’ll be seeking out Walls’ other books.

Snowdrops – A. D. Miller

snowdropsI have some catching up to do, so I am going to zip through a couple of book reviews. Well, I’ll try to, anyway. First off is Snowdrops by A. D. Miller, which we read in the book circle last month.

Snowdrops was a fairly quick read, the story was engaging, despite the fact that the narrator pretty much lacks a personality and for a long time nothing much happened.

The narrator is a British lawyer stationed in Russia, mostly because he doesn’t really have a life in Britain:

I found myself entering the thirty-something zone of disappointment, (…) The time of ‘Is that all there is?’ (…) People started running marathons or becoming Buddhists to help them get through it. (…) The truth is, the firm asked me if I’d go out to Moscow, just for a year, they said, maybe two. It was a short cut to a partnership, they hinted. I said yes, and ran away from London and how young I wasn’t anymore.

(Page 35-36) He falls in with a couple of Russian girls (and in love with one of them), Masha and Katya, sisters they say, and gets tangled up in some pretty unsavoury dealings. He is also involved in a rather unfortunate, equally unsavoury deal at work. All in all it’s a bit of a disaster and he is sent home in disgrace. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the novel is the way the story is framed, it’s written as a sort of a letter to the narrators fiance, whom he met after his return from Russia, as a sort of confession prioror to their nuptials. I can’t help thinking that the wedding will have been called off, because he really doesn’t come out of the sorry mess very well (he’s either a cynical douchebag or a pretty pathetic, naive dumbass – take your pick).

Where the novel failed, I think, is in creating the duality that I suspect the author intended. I had some sympathy for the narrator, be he ever so wishy-washy, and wanted to belive he was trying to act for the best, at least until he as so far in as to make backtacking almost impossible. However, I thereupon found myself having to remind myself that the end result of both «deals» was actually pretty horrendous. I wasn’t feeling it at all, I had to step back from the story and say «Wait, what, that is really not very nice.» Interestingly, those in my book circle who really felt how horrible the outcome was had had no sympathy for the narrator from the start (even before he’s really done anything). I should imagine what the author had in mind was for the reader to have some sympathy for both sides, so to say, to think of the narrator as a decent guy to start with and then gradually to realise (as he is supposedly realising it) what atrocities he is actually able to take part in.

The other main point that arose from our discussion of the book was how one-dimensional and distasteful the population of Russia appear in the novel. Well, there are two types of Russians, judging from this book: The scheming crooks who’ll swindle you out of your home, money and everything else, and the naive, kind-hearted souls that are there mostly to be swindled. Hardly the most flattering picture of a nation.

The best thing about Snowdrops was the occasional flash of lingustic brilliance. The quote above, especially the phrase «how young I wasn’t anymore» appealed to me, as did random sentences such as this one:

My nostrils froze together, the hairs inside them hugging each other for survival.

(Page 114) It’s not enough to save the novel, though. Not bad as such, but underwhelming, on the whole.

The Mystery of Mercy Close – Marian Keyes

keyes_mercy_closeSince I read everything Marian Keyes publishes, it was only a matter of time before I got around to The Mystery of Mercy Close (when I’ll get around to blogging about This Charming Man – Excellent! – and The Brightest Star in the Sky – Charming. – is another question entirely). As it is when the book circle met before the summer and everyone presented their suggestions for summer reading, two of us had Keyes in our pile (though my pile was virtual, I was badly prepared). And so it ended up on our combined list almost by default.

Things were looking grim, though, until I got out of the funk, fiction was not pleasing me at all. However, I got out somehow and finished The Mystery of Mercy Close, well, not in record time, but certainly quite quickly.

In other words, it’s highly readable. My friend Linda said she had a hard time getting into it because she’s stuck on the other Walsh sisters’ depictions of Helen, but my memory is bad. I mean, really, really bad. It leaks like a sieve. This is one of the reasons I reread, after all. Anyway, I remember Helen being mentioned, obviously, but that’s it. So I found her rather intriguing from the start. She doesn’t «belive in love, fear, depression or hot drinks». She is sour, misantropic and sarcastic.

I have a habit of taking instant dislikes to people. Simply because it saves time.

(Page 72.) She is also distinctly weird, and you can see how she would rub her sisters quite the wrong way, in fact she would rub most people the wrong way. Life in a presumably regular-sized Irish (lower?) middle-class house with 6 other people (parents and four sisters) must have been hellish for someone like Helen.

The fact is that the human race has survived for a very long time (way too long, in my opinion; they can bring on the Rapture anytime they like)

(Page 184.) Anyway, I like her. She’s prickly, but I can feel quite prickly myself on occasion. It will be interesting at some point in the future to reread the other Walsh sisters’ books and see how Helen is actually viewed by them. I must remember to take notes or something, though. (Memory. Leaks. Sieve.)

The Mystery of Mercy Close is partly a classic mystery, Helen is, after all, a private investigator and partly a love story, but it is also very much a book about depression. And it’s the latter that demonstrates, yet again, how Keyes at her best manages to describe the indescribable. Actually, this is not Keyes at her absolute best (Rachel’s Holiday is probably her masterpiece and I also really like This Charming Man), she fails to make me feel what Helen is feeling and there are times I would like to shout «Oh, snap out of it!» even though I know perfectly well that would be quite pointless. What Keyes does manage to convey, though, is the variety of utterly unhelpful reactions someone with depression may expect to encounter in their family and friends (one of which, incidentally, is the «Oh, snap out of it!» thing).

Additionally, the mystery part is compelling, why HAS Wayne Diffney disappeared? The descriptions of boybands, their stereotypes and more especially of the desparate measures old and decrepit boybands might take, are hilarious, as are the scarily accurate analyses of how the originally uninterested general public reacts with the right sort of PR.

As for the love story, the publishers have done the book a disservice by presenting it as some sort of love triangle struggle in their synopsis on the back of my copy, anyway:

When a missing-persons case draws her into the dark, glamorous world of her dodgy ex, Jay Parker, Helen finds she’s seeing more of him and less of Artie Devlin, her sexy detective boyfriend. Caught between smart, stable Artie and chaotic, up-for-anything Jay – two different, equally enticing men – and plagued by her own black doubts, Helen finds she’s beginning to believe in something. But is it fear or is it love?

Sure, there is baggage with Jay and sure, he’s moving in somewhat glamorous circles right now (hardly that glamorous, though, mostly washed-up ex-b-list celebs) and dark? Hardly. And the caught between two men, thing, as a plot? I’m so over it. I was put off by this description and had it been an author I liked less it might have prevented me reading the book. As it is, and I apologize if this is a major spoiler for you (stop reading NOW if you’re intrigued by the love triangle!) Helen is never even close to considering getting together with Jay again. The story with Artie is interesting, however, though it plays a fairly minor role in the grand scheme of things.

In conclusion: Not Keyes’ best (but far from her worst). Definitely worth reading, though.

Incidentally, for the best description of what depression feels like that I have ever read (take into account that I have never experienced clinical depression and therefore cannot judge its accuracy from the inside, so to say, just it’s usefulness in understanding my fellow humans’ behavior) can be found in Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half.

Fallvatten – Mikael Niemi

niemi_fallvattenNå begynner backloggen å hope seg opp, her. For jeg har lest, selv om jeg ikke har blogget. Vi får se om et lite skippertak med kortere omtaler ikke kan få meg noenlunde på track igjen.

Jeg leste (selvsagt, hadde jeg nær sagt) Mikael Niemis Populärmusik från Vittula når den kom for en del år siden. Siden det har vi kjøpt det meste Niemi har skrevet i pocket når det har passet seg sånn, og mannen har lest i alle fall en bok til, men for min del har jeg ikke kommet så langt. Det er et helt normalt problem her i huset. Vel, når en av de andre i boksirkelen hadde Fallvatten som forslag måtte jeg nesten stemme for den, og siden mange nok var enige med meg i at den så interessant ut ble det den vi leste. I mars. Jeg sa jo jeg lå etter…

Fallvatten er en katastroferoman. Det har regnet stødig i Norrland hele høsten og plutselig en dag brister en demning i Luleelven. Det forårsaker en flodbølge som blir større og større ettersom den bryter ned de påfølgende demningene nedover langs veien, en etter en. I boka følger vi et utvalg av dem som befinner seg langs elvens løp og på hver sin måte rammes av bølgen.

Jeg synes boka hadde et godt driv, og Niemi klarer i stor grad å vise hvor forskjellig folk reagerer på en truende katastrofe. Noen med aggresjon, noen med solidaritet og styrke og noen oppdager plutselig at de ikke var så klare for å dø som de trodde. Noen av mine boksirklende venner synes det ble for mye, enten at det ble for anmasende eller at det ble for mange personer å holde styr på. Jeg synes derimot at antallet var akkurat passe for å belyse de reaksjonene som skulle belyses, og at historiene var såpass forkjellige at det ikke var noe problem å holde dem fra hverandre. Min største innvending var at boka er for kort, for jeg ville vite hva som hendte videre når bølgen hadde passert.

Et lite notat til slutt: Denne boka er en av de som burde ha «Trigger warning: Rape» trykket på coveret. Det kom i alle fall overraskende på meg, ut fra omtalene av Fallvatten at spesielt en seksjon var såpass grafisk (og teknisk sett er det to voldtekter, selv om den andre er mest bisarr). Så om du trigges av sånt er du hermed advart.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

We had a shorter than normal gap between two reading circle meetings before Christmas, and so we opted for reading some Christmas stories rather than a novel. The longest was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, my suggestion. The story, of course, is well known to us all, I don’t know how many versions of it I’ve read or seen on screen, however, I have never actually read the original story.

I’m not a Dickens fan. I’ve never managed to finish any of the novels, or even get very far into them (I’ve read around half of Oliver Twist, other than that my record is probably twenty or so pages). I think my main problem is that he was paid per inch, so there is too much filler. Emminently written and beautifully described filler, but filler none the less. When he spends two pages describing a fairly minor character who comes into a room I lose interest, I’m afraid.

But A Christmas Carol is something else. It gives no impression of uneccessary verbosity, and in consequence it is quite beautiful.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!” He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again. “Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?” “I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.” “Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.” Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

Bah, humbug, indeed.

Somewhat unfairly, the story suffers slightly from having become a cliché, though since most versions take liberties, there is something to be said for giving the original its due attention. And language-wise it can’t be bettered.

Den amerikanska flickan – Monika Fagerholm

fagerholmNår det viste seg på oktobermøtet i boksirkelen at det var min tur til å foreslå bok ble jeg tatt litt på senga, og jeg måtte forsøke å se for meg de bøkene som står mest synlig til på «skal-lese-hylla».  Den amerikanska flickan var den første jeg kom på som også var tilgjengelig i nok eksemplarer på biblioteket (det er ett av kravene vi har til valgt bok), så da ble det den. Jeg hadde den stående fordi den var anbefalt som finsk kandidat i den nordiske utfordringen.

Jeg skal ærlig innrømme at denne boka hadde jeg aldri lest ferdig om ikke det var for at vi skulle snakke om den i boksirkelen (og det i tillegg var mitt forslag). Jeg slet meg gjennom de siste par hundre sidene. Og jeg følte meg faktisk regelrett snytt da jeg kom til siste side og leste «(fortsättning följer)». Jeg hadde nemlig ikke fått med meg at Den amerikanska flickan var del en av en todelt fortelling, Slutet på glitterscenen.

Det var i grunn enighet i boksirkelen om at boka rett og slett er for lang. Grunnhistorien er for så vidt interessant nok, den kretser rundt to jenter i tidlige tenår, Doris og Sandra, som «leker» egne versjoner av hendelser. De to historiene de fokuserer på er Sandras mors «forsvinning», den andre dreier seg om den amerikanske jenta som besøkte trakten noen år tidligere og som endte opp druknet. Vennskapet mellom de to jentene blir ganske intenst, og måten det framstilles på er fascinerende. Så langt er alt vel.

Slut på den showen. Den drömmen–

«– i putten», mumlade Doris Flinkenberg. «Den drömmen i putten», fortsatte hon lite högre, men fortfarande kanske bara mest för sig själv. Men ändå, redan på sitt oefterhärmliga Dorissätt, på sitt alldeles eget Dorisspråk, ett språk som Sandra kände igen också som sitt eget, för det hade blivit också hennes under den långa, märkvärdiga tid de hade varit bara de två och ingen annan. Ett språk som de egentligen hade hållit på att växa ur redan under en lång tid i denna pubertet som nyss hade börjat och som aldrig skulle leda dem tilbaka till någon rolig barndom där det fanns egna världar, många liv, många leker och personligheter. Utan tvärtom, upp i den rktiga världen för att bli vuxna som Ålänningen, kusinmamman, Lorelei Lindberg och Bombnedslaget. Och ja, de hade ju sina sidor allesammans, men i det stora hela måste man ändå säga att, yäk!

(Side 248.)

Historien om de to jentene som lever seg inn i sin egen verden minnet meg om filmen Heavenly Creatures, og jeg er redd det gjorde steminingen i boka dystrere og mer truende enn det kanskje er ment at den skal være. Selv om det ikke er mangel på død og depresjon i boka, heller.

Fortellerstemmen er spesiell. Den er ikke en definert person som forteller, og fortelleren er «allvitende», men er helt klart påvirket av bevisthetsstrøm-tradisjonen, og det er lett å trekke paraleller til Virginia Woolf og kanskje særlig To the Lighthouse. Historien er preget av gjentagelser, særlig av (ganske lange) klengenavn på steder og folk, men er også springende i tid og rom. Det er som å høre en historie fortalt av en litt surrete person over en kaffekopp (eller mange, siden den er lang), som kommer på ting de har glemt å si og til stadighet sier «men det må jeg fortelle mer om senere» eller røper ting som kommer til å skje. Poetisk er det også, Fagerholm leker med ord og vendinger, og gjentagelsene forsterker inntrykket av at det er en form for prosadikt man leser.

Dette er spennende, men slitsomt. Og når det etterhvert bærer mer preg av å være teknikk for teknikkens skyld, snarere enn noe som driver historien framover, ja da mister jeg desverre interessen.

Samtidig er det en gripende fortelling Fagerholm formidler, og jeg slites mellom å ha lyst til å lese del to – som heter Glitterscenen – fordi jeg føler at historien er ufullført, og å tenke at «det orker jeg i hvert fall IKKE». Vi får se.

Andre bloggere om boka:

Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

adichieLast month’s reading circle book was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. I was late as usual, so I had to read the last 100 pages or so after the discussion, but had skimmed (very, very quickly) on my way there.

Adichie writes a story full of warmth and detail from a country and a conflict I know very little about. The story is varyingly narrated from the viewpoint of Ugwu, Olanna and Richard, which keeps the narrative interesting and helps highlight both the differences and the similarities in their experience.

Our first meeting with Ugwu, and with the story, is when he arrives with his aunt to take up the position as houseboy to Odenigbo, who is a professor at the University of Nsukka, politically vocal and Olannas boyfriend. Ugwu is awkward at first, but blossoms under the tutelage of Odenigbo and Olanna, who practice what they preach by making sure he goes to school despite being «just a houseboy».

Ugwu came to realize other things. He was not a normal houseboy; Dr Okeke’s houseboy next door did not sleep on a bed in a room, he slept on the kitchen floor. The houseboy at the end of the street with whom Ugwu went to the market did not decide what would be cooked, he cooked whatever he was ordered to. And they did not have masters or madams who gave them books, saying, ‘This one is excellent, just excellent.’

(Page 17.) Ugwu is a grateful subject for their attention, picking up reading material from his master that is far beyond him, but stubbornly working his way through it, and on the whole being a quick and eager learner.

The next narrator is Olanna, and we start off with a glimpse of her background. She has a (non-identical) twin sister, born to parents who are of Nigeria’s upper class, her father is a businessman and involved in government. They have a plot to get Olanna, the pretty one, bartered away to strengthen their connections, while Kainene, is being groomed to take over the business, in place of the son they lack. The sisters have grown apart during their stay in Britain to study and though Olanna would like to bridge the gap, Kainene upholds her distance. Olanna is uncomfortable with her family’s wealth and seems more happy visiting her aunt and uncle, who are comfortably, but more humbly situated. She has no patience, moreover, with her parents plot to sell her off, and is moving to Nsukka to live with Odenigbo.

The third narrator is Richard, who is a Brit newly arrived in Nigeria. He is drawn by a recent find of ancient local art, and is an aspiring writer. He falls in love with Kainene almost at first sight at a party and in love with the country and the continent progressively through the book.

The characters alternate in this order throughout the novel. Though the narration is third person «omniscient», but changes tone with the three characters as we share their thoughts and feelings. This works beautifully, by giving the reader three strong voices who all have their different perspectives on the events of the story.

Life is peaceful enough in the first part of the novel, set in the early sixties. But then the plot skips foreward to the late sixties and the disturbances that led to the secession of the southeastern part of Nigeria as The Republic of Biafra. The new republic is not recognised by the international community and civil war ensues. I am ashamed to say I knew very little about Nigerias history before reading this book, and though I had heard of Biafra, all I could recall was vague images of a hunger catastrophy. That is part of the story, certainly, but there is so much more to learn. Partly because I was so unaware of the progress of the conflict it threw me when Adichie suddenly takes the plot back to the peaceful early sixties half-way though the book, before returning to the late sixties and the culmination of the civil war in the last quarter. At first, I was puzzled by this strategy, and failed to see that it contributed anything useful, but once I got over my own impatience to see «what happened next», I recognised that the cruel contrast between the progressively more desperate situations in the war zone and the peaceful, optimistic, forward-looking earlier years lends a deeper poignancy to the individual fates than a mere chronological retelling would.

While narrating the story of the war and it’s origins, Adichie touches on many subjects, not least of which is how the colonial English used the divide and conquer tactics to such effect in Nigeria that the after-effects are in operation long after the control has (nominally) passed to the Nigerians. This is true for much of Africa, and probably for much of the post-colonial world. Interestingly, the magnificent lack of concern shown by outsiders is most clearly shown through Richard’s, the outsider’s, eyes. Perhaps because he is white and so all the other white people expect him to be «on their side». Richard, however, has given his heart to Biafra, even as he recognises that he will always be an outsider.

Richard exhaled. It was like somebody sprinkling pepper on his wound: Thousands of Biafrans were dead, and this man wanted to know if there was anything new about one dead white man.

(Page 369.) Following on from this Adichie raises the question of who should write Africas stories. Thoughout the book are fragments of a history of the war. At first the reader assumes they are supposed to have been written by Richard, he is the writer, after all. But is he the one to tell Biafra’s story?


Adichie besøkte både Sverige og Norge forrige uke i anledning utgivelsen av hennes nye bok, Americanah, desverre kom hun ikke til Trondheim og jeg hadde ingen mulighet til å reise for å se henne. Men SvD publiserte en tekst hun har skrevet om at virkeligheten overgår diktningen og hos Och dagarna går kan du se en video der hun snakker om boka.

Half of a Yellow Sun er oversatt til norsk av Mona Lange og gitt ut av Gyldendal med tittelen En halv gul sol.

Saturday – Ian McEwan

saturdayDet begynte så bra. Henry Perowne våkner midt på natten og står ved soveromsvinduet og ser et fly i flammer komme inn over London. Post-ellevte september er det naturlig å mistenke terrorisme, og Perowne våkner dagen etter med en uro i kroppen, er hans trygge, idylliske liv truet?

Perownes lørdag fortsetter først i vante mønstre. Han kjøper fisk til kveldens fiskegryte, han besøker sin mor, og så drar han for å spille squash. På vei til squashen blir han involvert i en liten bilulykke og møter Baxter, som med hjelp av kompisene truer Perowne mer direkte. Perowne snakker seg ut av situasjonen ved å utnytte diagnosen han instinktivt stiller og slipper altså unna bank der og da, men ved å ydmyke Baxter stiller han seg åpen for framtidige angrep.

Etter squash drar Perowne hjem og starter med matlagingen, gjestene (sønn, datter og svigerfar) ankommer og når de alle er samlet ankommer også Baxter med makker som tar familien som gisler i et innbruddsdrama.

Gjennom hele boka får vi Perownes filosoferinger over livet generelt og over politikk og neurologisk sykdom spesielt. En gryende irak-krig problematiseres, spørsmålet om mennesker kan lastes for ting de gjør som er forårsaket av sykdom likeså.

Som sagt, det begynner bra. Jeg liker Perowne på sett og vis og jeg liker det McEwan skriver. Men etterhvert begynner ting å skurre. Og innbruddscenen med Baxter er rett og slett så… idiotisk at det er vanskelig å ta boka 100 % alvorlig.

Det mest interessante aspektet ved boka er diskusjonen rundt nevrologisk sykdom og hva det kan ha å si for atferden til mennesker, og altså hvorvodt de kan lastes for sine handlinger hvis det er sykdommen som forårsaker dem. I den sammenhengen er Baxter et særdeles interessant kasus, men McEwan sløser det hele bort i den tynneste, Hollywood-aktige resolusjonen av en konflikt jeg noensinne har lest i såkalt seriøs litteratur.

Og det er så synd, for han kunne gjort så mye mer med det persongalleriet han har skapt. Perowne selv kunne vært dissikert og blottlagt (på John Updike-vis som gjestebloggeren hos och dagarna går ønsker seg). Ekteskapet mellom Henry og hans kone Rosalind er også verdt enda fler linjer enn det allerede får, det samme er forholdet til barna og til svigerfaren Grammaticus, her er materiell nok til tre-fire bøker minst. Og diskusjonen om virkelighet, særlig hjernens virkelighet sett med nevrokirurgens øyne, og litteraturen representert ved svigerfar og datter er også verdt mer fokus enn det får.

A man who attempts to ease the miseries of failing minds by repairing brains is bound to respect the material world, its limits, and what it can sustain – consciousness, no less. It isn’t an article of faith with him, he knows it for a quotidian fact, the mind is what the brain, mere matter, performs. If that’s worthy of awe, it also deserves curiosity; the actual, not the magical, should be the challenge. This reading list persuaded Perowne that the supernatural was the recourse of an insufficient imagination, a dereliction of duty, a childishevasion of the difficulties and wonders of the real, of the demanding re-enactment of the plausible. (Page 67-68)

I det hele tatt. McEwan skriver for det meste bra, men undergraver sitt eget prosjekt i mine øyne. Har jeg blitt skremt fra å lese fler bøker av McEwan? Nei. Han kan da ikke ødelegge alle bøkene sine på denne måten, kan han vel? Og i utgangspunktet likte jeg virkelig boka.

Jeg hadde moro av denne anmeldelsen på Goodreads, forresten, jeg er ganske enig, for å si det slik.

Ps: Plutselig skrev jeg visst på norsk. Det var i grunn en forglemmelse, men jeg gidder altså ikke oversette når jeg først har skrevet… Boka er utgitt på norsk av Gyldendal, oversatt av Halvar Kristiansen, med tittelen Lørdag.