The Racketeer as Audiobook 

23 06 2017

My idea was to try listening to an audiobook for a change while running in the morning – instead of my usual mix of Paul Simon, Rodriguez, 1 Giant Leap and Enigma. When The Racketeer by John Grisham popped up in the newly acquired audiobooks section at the college library, I decided to give it a try. 

I loved this book!  To begin with, I enjoyed the story unfolding bit by bit while running my 3.5 km each morning. The American narrator did a good job bringing the book to life, and after a while I was looking forward to the next bit of the story as much as my morning run. 

About mid-way through the novel, with the first unexpected twist, I ended up listening to the story after I got back home post-run as well – instead of turning on the news. I guess that’s what happens when a page turner is delivered in an audio format.

I do recommend this novel if you’re looking for a good story set in a prison/law courts/crime context. Unexpected twists keep coming, especially towards the end, and to me, it was a very satisfying read (I mean listen!). Perfect pool reading for the summer break.

 





Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki

25 10 2014

The plot in Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is as clean and sharp as the trajectory of a perfect golf ball shot. Which is a bit unusual for Haruki Murakami, whose plots often are expansive and unwieldy like an old oak with branches shooting out in all directions.

Basically, Tsukuru Tazaki is mercilessly rejected by the close circle of friends he belongs to as a high-school student. No reasons given. The rest of the novel is about how this rejection affects Tsukuru, and how he tries to work out what happened. The sharpness of the plot in this novel makes the central themes stand out with remarkable clarity: friendship, relationships, rejection and loss. And it allows for some very profound observations.

Tsukuru often ponders the fact that his Japanese name does not include a colour – his four friends’ names all contain a colour – and he concludes that this is symptomatic of his personality. He is, in essence, colourless.

I love Murakami’s light-touch approach to magical realism in this novel. The magic is there, but the focus is on the real world. I also like the little gems hidden in the text throughout the novel. “You can hide memories” but “you can’t erase the history that produced them.”

Tsukuru’s passion for train stations is another example of Murakami’s ability to find that one thing, that metaphor, that reveals what’s at the core of a person. Tsukuru watches trains arrive and leave a train station in the same way as others would attend a music concert. When colourless Tsukuru with “no personality” watches a train leaving the station, he observes: “Tsukuru had no place he needed to go.” This is just one brilliant example of Murakami’s incredibly economical and concise characterisation.

Just like in Norwegian Wood and 1Q84, Murakami places a piece of music at the centre of this novel. This time it’s Franz Liszt’s “Le mal du pays” from Years of Pilgrimage. If you’re not familiar with this piece, I suggest you listen to it when reading this novel. It certainly adds a dimension to the process of reading, and of understanding what’s at the heart of this novel.

Often when I read a new novel by Murakami, I think, “This is my favourite. This is his best he’s written.” So also this time.

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The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep

2 11 2013

I can’t remember who recommended this book or why I bought it. After a couple of pages, I had to check the publishing date since no-one was using mobile phones, and the comments about the Armenian genocide didn’t take the Turkish view into account at at all even though th story started off opinion Turkey. I discovered Lawrence Block published this book in 1966.

The story line was not bad, but many of the twists and the turns in he plot were so unrealistic that I felt it was too far removed from today’s well-researched and authentic-sounding story lines to be enjoyable. It read a bit like a film script, and some of the dialogue and the comment were quite entertaining. Still, I don’t think I will read any more of Lawrence Block’s novels. Apparently he has written over 100 books. He could be an acquired taste, but I won’t pursue this author any further, partly because the happy ending was way too tidy.

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Shantaram

26 10 2013

This book started like an adventure novel with a cross-cultural theme, which I really liked. But for each hundred pages (it’s 933 pages in total), the story became rougher and rougher. About two-thirds way through, there were so many bloody and gory bits, many which were very explicit, that I was thinking that this was definitely not my kind of novel at all. But I was hooked, because this rather violent and gritty story has a very warm and life-affirming centre: it’s really about redemption, love and forgiveness. And freedom.

The vivid description of life in Bombay is fantastic, and the multifaceted plot draws you in. Often you have no idea of where you’re heading. And I think this sense that I didn’t really know what the novel was “about” – until I had passed page 700 – was something I actually really enjoyed, because when it all became clear, it was all incredibly clever.

Lindsay, who escapes prison in Australia and hides in Bombay, India, has a powerful moment of recognition – what Aristotle would have called the anagnorisis – and this moment in the novel is superb. All the various threads in the story suddenly make sense, and the rest of the novel is about what Lindsay does with this new understanding, and where it takes him. I realise this is rather vague, but I don’t want spot spoil the impact for anybody about to read this book.

Another thing I really liked about this novel were the gems hidden in the often rough dialogue. Moments of clear perception of something rather large and complex, like, “What is India?” The lines about India as the “Land of the Heart”, or personality as “[the] co-ordinates a on a street map drawn by our intersecting relationships” are profound and very perceptive.

This novel made me think a lot, and I won’t forget the colourful and rich descriptions of Bombay. They kind of stay with you.

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The Kill List

27 09 2013

I’ve just finished reading The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth, not because I’m a fast reader – it was released in the UK yesterday – but because it was already on sale in Dubai last week. And seeing only a couple of copies left on the shelf, I decided to go for it.

The blurb suggested this clean, crisp plot: The Preacher (terrorist) versus the Tracker (US manhunter). However, I’ve been a bit disappointed. It’s reasonably fast-paced, with quite a lot of detail (military procedure, slang and hardware, international inter-agency cooperation and non-cooperation, secret service protocol) and some twists and turns here and there in the plot. Still, I felt the novel didn’t quite deliver. I’m not saying it’s not worth reading, but it is not at the same standard as The Day of the Jackal, The Fourth Protocol (my Forsyth favourite), or The Devil’s Alternative.

Having a computer genius with Aspergers is not a new angle in 2013, but there were a few great phrases here and there adding a bit of spice – my favourite one being “with the imagination of a chapati”. And it annoys me when the research for local detail has been shoddy – the only “cheap local airline” flying direct between Doha and Dubai International is FlyDubai, and their passengers definitely don’t see “a truly vast duty-free shopping mall” on arrival. The Duty Free at Dubai Terminal 2 is definitely on the small side (as all FlyDubai passengers know very well).

That said, I think The Kill List compares favourably with The Cobra, The Afghan and Icon.

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A Delicate Truth

27 09 2013

John LeCarre’s A Delicate Truth is pure delight. I haven’t enjoyed a novel of his this much since The Little Drummer Girl, my LeCarre favourite. Though, mind you, all LeCarre’s novels are either very good or excellent.

The subtlety of the characters and the multi-layered plot make this a great read. LeCarre is a master at combining the spy world with interesting psychological portraits of people. I also enjoy the social and political comment. Normally, I don’t go for the whistle-blower theme, but this novel is just so satisfying, from the very beginning to the last page.

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Fasanjägarna

27 09 2013

Jag blev rekommenderad att läsa Fasanjägarna av Jussi Adler-Olsen när jag var i Stockholm i sommar. Jag tog med mig den på min resa med Transsibiriska järnvägen men undrar nu i efterhand varför i all världen jag läste den till slutet när jag också hade Dostojevskis Demonerna i resväskan.

Fasanjägarna hade en hyfsad början men sen tyckte jag att resten av boken gav ett fragmenterat intryck, där vissa teman gick runt i cirklar i all oändlighet. Romanen hade också nåt overkligt över sig, vilket jag inte gillar i en kriminalroman.

Orsaken till att jag inte gav upp var att jag ville veta hur det hela slutade. Jag läste färdigt boken någonstans mellan Bajkalsjön och Ulan Bator och lämnade den på ett vandrarhem i Mongoliet.

Demonerna hade varit ett mycket bättre val för resan på Transsibiriska järnvägen.

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