I sommer endte jeg med å starte på gjenlesing av Jasper Ffordes serie om Thursday Next. De første par bøkene seilte jeg gjennom ganske kjapt, så kom hverdagen og det gikk litt treigere, og så begynte jeg på One of Our Thursdays is Missing i oktober og der stagnerte det helt. Når jeg tok meg sammen etter nyttår og leste meg gjennom siste halvpart av boka i løpet av noen få dager kom jeg fram til at noe av problememet med den sjette boka om Thursday Next er at den slett ikke handler om Thursday Next. Det vil si, den handler ikke om den samme Thursdayen som de første fem bøkene, jeg-personen vi følger i bok seks er den (ene varianten av den) fiktive Thursday Next. Og selv om hun ligner er det ikke samme person, det er noe av poenget. Så Fforde må rett og slett gi meg litt tid til å bli kjent med en helt ny hovedperson. Og det der var sikkert rimelig uforståelig om du ikke har lest Fforde… Ikke fortvil, det er rimelig forvirrende når du leser Fforde også, men ganske underholdende. Men start med The Eyre Affair.

Crawlspace av Jesse Jacobs var litt underholdende, men mest… merkelig. Noen tenåringer finner en inngang til en regnbuefarget psykedelig verden gjennom vaskemaskinen og tørketrommelen i kjelleren til en av dem. Jeg tror det er en metafor for narkotika, men jeg er jaggu ikke sikker. Narnia it ain’t. Å «bli høy» har aldri appelert til meg, og det gjorde ikke denne boka heller. Tegningene er forseggjorte, men jeg satt igjen med den samme følelsen som etter en kunstutstilling på Ni Muser i hine hårde dager som besto av et tredvetalls kvadratiske lerret med det samme geometriske mønsteret i forskjellige kombinasjoner av brunt, beige og grått: «At noen gidder.»

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is a fairly charming story of growing up in the USA with roots in India that remain largely unexplored until the protagonist is old enough to rebel at the reticence of her mother and push for more knowledge. An important narrative driver in the story is the Pashmina of the title, which is magical, showing the various women in the story images that act as guides in the critical crossroads of life. I am rarely enthused by «magical realism» or variations thereof (I prefer realism or full-on fantasy), and Pashmina did not really convince me for that reason, but the artwork is certainly stunning.

(Argh. I did it again. I changed languages half way through for no good reason. Ah, well.)


Ffforde-boka har jeg kjøpt sjøl, de to andre har jeg lånt på biblioteket.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

As I said in Smakebit på søndag, when I’d read the first chapter of The Last Dragonslayer on Friday, far too late in the evening already, I didn’t want to put it down, and in other circumstances I probably wouldn’t have. As it was it was Sunday before I finished. And it is a compelling story, with Jennifer Strange as a most compelling heroine. But while I liked it, I really, really liked it, I still felt it fell a little short of perfection (unlike Shades of Gray which really IS perfection).

For while the story is compelling, I felt it lacked something, a little drive, perhaps? And I should have liked to see more of Tiger Prawn, a most worthy sidekick. And I should have liked to see more of the wizards, too, even the ones – or perhaps especially the ones – with a less than sunny personality. And I really want more quarkbeast. Charming creatures, they are.

Now I realise that this is the first book in an intended series, so that hopefully I WILL see more of these characters, but though I adore series, even long series, I still feel that at least the first volume ought to be able to stand on its own two feet. It should leave you wanting more, yes, of course it should, but there is a difference here. Comparing, again, with Shades of Gray, which had me craving more the moment I closed the book, but which felt very much like a complete whole, The Last Dragonslayer leaves me wanting more because the book itself feels somewhat incomplete. 

Perhaps it’s because it’s written for a younger market? I don’t know. I’m not sure that’s an excuse, though. Why should younger readers not want complete books?

On the whole, though, The Last Dragonslayer is better than most books out there. I could compare it to almost any book and it would come up trumps, I just know Fforde can do better, and so I am a little disappointed. A very little. I’m still preordering The Song of the Quarkbeast, because, well, complaining that I want more and then not grabbing at it with both hands when I’m offered more would just be stupid, right?

On a side note: Why, oh why have they radically changed cover designs between volumes 1 and 2?

En smakebit på søndag: The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I finished with Jack and Stephen Friday evening and started The Last Dragonslayer immediately, even though it was really time for bed already. I read one chapter and realised I really didn’t want to put it down. Ten years ago I would probably have finished it that night, but then I didn’t have someone who’d wake me demanding breakfast in the morning (and since the husband was working Saturday, it would be me she’d demand breakfast from).

Anyway, here’s a quote:

Tiger was staring thoughtfully at Prince Nasil, the carpet and the Yummy-Flakes box. Mystical Arts was a strange industry to work in and was much like a string of bizarre occurences occasionally interspersed with moments of great triumph and numbing terror. There was boredom, too. Watching wizards build up to a spell is like watching paint dry. It can take some getting used to.

En smakebit på søndag – a taster on Sunday – is an initiative from Mari at Flukten fra virkeligheten.

Ah, Jasper.

Another blog worth following is the Guardian Books Blog. Right now they’re doing major coverage of the Edinburgh book festival, and they’ve had webchats with a couple of authors (transcript available after the fact), one of which: The very, very lovely Jasper Fforde. It’s actually the first time I’ve seen a picture of Fforde, and my first reaction was «But he looks quite normal!» Incidentally, that was my first reaction when seeing Frode Øverlie for the first time at a signing at Serieteket in Oslo, too.

Another roundup

Not to be avoided, obviously.

The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith – charming.

The Rune Blade Trilogy by Ann Marston, consisting of The Kingmaker’s Sword, The Western King and Broken Blade. Engaging, well worth the time. My one gripe, if you can call it that, was that I’d have preferred to stay with the same protagonist throughout the trilogy. But I suppose that’s more of a «the books were too short» kind of complaint, which isn’t neccessarily a bad thing. Picked up the whole set as bookcrossing copies and have been meaning to release them, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Must see about picking up further books from Marston.

One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. A delight as usual, even more twisted than its predecessors, though I’d hardly have though that possible.

At Home by Bill Bryson. If anyone can tip me off about other authors who are as good at collecting, organising and relating anecdotes as Bill Bryson, please, please do.

That Old Cape Magic and The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. Both quite magical in a very everyday, humdrum sort of way, if that makes any sense. Confirms Russo, again, as one of my all-time favourite authors.

And that’s mostly what I read during the holidays. Now, what did I read between March and July I wonder? Think, think, think.


Update number 1: Well, of course, I reread the whole series that will not be named. That took a couple of days.

Update number 2: The School at the Chalet by Elinor Brent-Dyer. I’ve never read any of the Chalet School books before, and found this copy by chance so thought I’d try it. It’s niceish. I’ll probably buy more from the series if I come across them second-hand, but I doubt I can be bothered to search very hard.

Update numer 3: Karin Lindell, better known as Ketchupmamman, of course. I even registered it on Bookcrossing before passing it on. Her blog is hilarious at times and thought-provoking at times, which is a good mix. The book follows along the same lines, and is highly reccommended as a present for any new parents.

Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde

ffordeIn Shades of Grey, Fforde departs somewhat from his earlier novels. The number of literary references are significantly down (though not totally absent) and the plot is set firmly in the future. The setting is Britain, but not as we know it, I guess one would call it a post-apocalyptic fantasy. Swans have evolved into seriously dangerous animals, giraffes and other exotic animals roam the wilderness, but most importantly people have lost the ability to see the world in multicolour, and how much and which colours you can see determines absolutely your place in society, your career, your marriage prospects and even your life expectancy.

To say I enjoyed the book would be an understatement. There is something about the way Fforde’s brain works that is immensly appealing to me. Mostly it’s hard to put my finger on what exactly makes it so good, but to me this is the bees’ knees and the cat’s pyjamas. It’s interesting, actually, because I have been wondering whether the appeal of Fforde’s prose was mostly due to the literary geekyness, but this book proves otherwise (though I guess I’d have to admit to some pre-existing chromatic geekyness). Simple things like the naming (and the capitalization) of the «apocalypse» – it’s the Something that Happened – gives me the same sort of thrill I normally only get from Really Good Poetry.

In fact, the only downside I can see to Fforde as an author is that it takes way too long between each new book. But I guess you can’t really rush this calibre of quality.

June to October

Dreadful. And now I can hardly remember what I’ve read all summer (and autumn…). I’m bound to leave something out.


The Imperfectly Natural Baby and Toddler – Janey Lee Grace
Interesting and contains lots of tips for things I hadn’t heard about before, but reads a blit like a list of weblinks at times (this is good for usefulness but for readability? Not so good.)

First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde
Brilliant, but missing something that I can’t put my finger on. Still, definitely brilliant. Just not quite perfect.

A Widow for One Year – John Irving
Yay! I finally got around to finishing a John Irving novel! I brought A Widow for One Year to Austria planning to release it once I’d finished, but somehow didn’t get as much reading done as I’d intended. For a long time I thought I might just leave it even if I didn’t finish, as I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading, even half-way through the book, but that would have entailed having to buy something else to read, and I never found anything I wanted to buy. By the time we were packing our bags to go home I only had a couple of hundred pages left, and found that the story had grown on me and that suddenly I could hardly put it down. Strange stuff. I might just have to buy some more Irving (especially if I find more cheap second-hand copies like this one).

Death at La Fenice – Donna Leon
A bookcrossing copy I picked up in Vienna. Pretty entertaining, I’ll probably read more Leon.

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
On the 1001 books list. I can see why.

Intimacy – Hanif Kureshi
Also on the 1001 books list, which is why I read it. That is, I read the story actually entitled Intimacy, and struggled to get through that, despite its relative briefness and it’s status as a «classic». I’m sure it’s a brilliant portrayal of a middle-aged guy planning to leave his wife, but I just thought it was dreary. I then read the following story in the book, something Night-ish, and found that it was basically about a middle-aged guy who’d left his wife. And then I gave up. I’m sure I’m at fault rather than Kureshi, we all have our hang-ups and one of mine is that my empathy fuse blows when you mix infidelity into the story and so I fail to connect with the characters at all, which takes the fun out of it.

So Many Books, so Little Time – Sarah Nelson
Unfortunately not as good as I’d hoped. As many of the other readers of the bookcrossing-copy I read I would have liked more books and less life, I guess, but my main gripes were with Nelson’s way of presenting herself and her reading. Firstly, she talks about her «discovery» that you really don’t have to finish books you don’t like as if it’s something profound – a rite of passage, «growing up» – which rather irritated me, but then she goes on to say that she doesn’t want to discuss or give her opinion on books she’s given up on. What? You read 200 pages of a 400 page novel and then decide you really can’t be bothered to finish it, but you maintain that you don’t have the «right» to say that the book sucked (or wasn’t quite to your taste) since you didn’t stick with it to the bitter end? Seriously, if a novel doesn’t manage to capture your attention sufficiently to make you finish it has fundamentally failed in its object and you’re entitled to say whatever you like (well, ok, I’d stay away from such statements as «the ending sucked» if you haven’t actually read the ending, but you know what I mean…). It made me suspect that Nelson really hasn’t «grown up» and that she’s still uncomfortable about leaving books unfinished, for all her protestations that this is something she has learned to do. The other is with the project itself: She reads books for a living, for goodness sakes, and still 50 books a year seems to have been a daunting task? Even last year, when I really didn’t read a lot, I read that much, and I’m up to 43 (and two halves) this year, despite giving birth in January (which everyone told me would be the death of reading novels, as I’d never be allowed to, or indeed able to, concentrate for long enough). I’m not impressed.

The World According to Bertie – Alexander McCall Smith
Perfect, as usual.

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree – Nick Hornby

The Big Over Easy


Yet again I almost missed the new Jasper Fforde because nobody told me it was out. Well, no matter, a quick nip into town to get my hands on The Big Over Easy and a few happy hours reading and ah… Brilliant as usual, Fforde has a new hero this time, called Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Divison at Reading. Which is all good, both Spratt and his new partner Mary Mary (who isn’t so contrary as you might have expected, though she’s having a hard time ditching a guy called Arnold) are both interesting and I’m already looking forward to their next appearance. I just hope Fforde hasn’t gived up on Thursday Next entirely, as I’d at least like to se her get her husband back, but I am not going to moan, I realise authors need variety and if we all clamour too much for our favorites return they may end up doing drastic things, like killing them off (it been done several times in the past, you know). And as long as Ffforde keeps on turning out excellent stuff like this, I can’t see any real reason for complaint. Oh, and if you wondered: Yes, the literary references are flying thick and hard in this one, too, though I find I may need to brush up on the nursery literature, it’s been a while.

Something Rotten

In which time – and pretty much everything else, too – is out of joint.


Thanks to Tinka I discovered Friday that a new Jasper Fforde had hit the shelves. After a short (but frantic) search in town I could get on the bus home and start reading. Something Rotten is every bit as good as one could expect having devoured the previous three books. Thursday is back in reality having spent two and a half years inside fiction, but reality is a somewhat dodgy concept, and something is definitely rotten in the state of, uhm, England. This made me very happy, which seems callous, but really, unless something is rotten, how are you going to get a good story?

In fact, the only thing that didn’t make me happy about Something Rotten was the quote from The Guardian they’ve opted to use on the cover. «Jasper Fforde has gone where no other fictioneer has gone before. Millions of readers now follow.» Well, what’s the problem with that then? Well, the problem with that is that in Thursday’s universe a «fictioneer» is a renegade fictional character, a «page-runner» who has not only left his own plot, but has left fiction entirely and tries to pass for a real person. Did the reviewer in The Guardian really mean to suggest that that is what Fforde is? And what about the publicity department? Has Fforde ok’ed the quote? In which case, why? What have I missed?

Anyway, go read The Eyre Affair and go on from there…