I know Murakami’s Norwegian Wood became hugely popular in Japan, but I much prefer the other novels I’ve read by him so far. Norwegian Wood is just a “normal novel”, i.e. it doesn’t have any of the magical realism-type elements you find in 1Q84 or Kafka by the Shore – and it’s really the magical realism that attracted me to Murakami’s writing, more than anything else, when I started reading his books.
That said, Norwegian Wood has a unique voice, which is quite an achievement since it’s not written in the first person – like, say, Catcher in the Rye – but somehow Murakami manages to create a very particular view of the world through the often chatty, lighthearted banter mixed with the harsh realities of life, loss in particular. If there’s one thing I really like about this novel, it’s the voice.
I started reading Life of Pi on my flight to Istanbul in November last year, only to forget the book on the plane. And, no, AirArabia did not have it in their lost-and-found the following day, so maybe another passenger read it. I hope they enjoyed the book!
When the movie was about to be released, I bought an iBook version of the novel for my iPad and started reading it again. However, when I finally saw the film this week, I had only reached Chapter 9, so the film is sort of interrupting the book, and I can’t really compare the two until I’ve finished the book.
But I can say this. This is a great novel to read as an iBook. I’m very busy using the highlighter function to remember all these wonderful lines I keep stumbling across. Like this one: “It was my luck to have a few good teachers in my youth, men and women who came into my dark head and lit a match. ” (Chapter 7) Combining this quote with the scenes of Pi leisurely reading Dostoyevsky and Camus by the sea in the movie makes me think that the novel and the movie might be equally good.
I’ve read one of Andy McNab’s books before but didn’t particularly like it very much. Anyway, when I saw Red Notice at Dubai Airport a few weeks ago, I thought I’d give him another chance. The cover suggested an interesting plot, and being in a holiday mood, I wanted a fast-paced spy thriller for the plane and the beach.
Having read it, I can’t say it grabbed me. The action is very detailed, which is not surprising considering Andy McNab’s professional background. There’s nothing wrong with his gritty, fast-paced style; but something is missing. Maybe the plot is a bit too polished, and the characters a bit flat.
I think I stick with John LeCarre, Robert Ludlum and Frederick Forsyth. Red Notice would probably make a good movie, though.
Daniel by Henning Mankell has a very clean, straightforward plot and I like that. It’s 1875 and Hans Bengler wants to be a famous entomologist. He decides to go to Africa to find an insect that hasn’t been discovered yet. In the Kalahari Desert he comes across a young orphaned boy and decides to adopt him and take him back to Sweden. He names him Daniel. The novel describes what happens when Daniel arrives in Sweden.
The result is a novel that deals with the clash between two cultures and an exploration of cross-cultural intelligence. I don’t feel too bad that virtually all Swedes come across like Neanderthals when it comes to cross-cultural intelligence – this is 1875 after all. And I did enjoy the observations and the sometimes profound analysis of Sweden as seen from the perspective of the young African boy.
This novel could have become a predictable story about a “noble savage” becoming corrupted when coming in contact with Western civilisation. However, even though the analysis and the acute observations are almost exclusively done by Daniel, there’s enough complexity in the story to make it a worthwhile read. And the world-view from the Kalahari Desert is fascinating.
I also like the fact that I don’t know where the plot is taking me. The narrative is not fast-paced – it’s not meant to be – but there are plenty of surprises along the way. And the pervasiveness of the desert – as a real place and as a metaphor – adds to the purity of the plot, and it energises the narrative.
When I read the blurb for Sweet Tooth, the latest novel by Ian McEwan, I immediately thought that combining MI5 and spying with literature and fiction-writing had to be a perfect mix. And I was not wrong.
I do like Ian McEwan very much, though sometimes his extremely well-crafted style strikes me as a bit too polished. His characterisation is outstanding – also in this novel – but I think what this novel adds is this post-modern, meta-fictional, reader-response-type twist at the end of the novel. Pure delight.
If you’re looking for tense spy fiction, this is not it. You kind of get that almost from the first page. But if you’re looking for an intriguing story that draws you in, where you’re never really sure where you’re heading, then this is a good bet. And as I said, the last chapter is pure delight.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is a re-write of King Oedipus, but that is far from enough to explain what kind of novel this is. Murakami is growning on me and I find his very-difficult-to-define writing style very enjoyable. While being deceptively simple – almost chatty – the style is also very precise (though not overly polished).
But writing style is not everything either. Murakami is creating a weave of often inexplicable events and relationships. And I keep getting caught up in the web. The mix of realism and the very mundane, with something that is quite similar to magical realism with a sort of dreamlike Sci-Fi edge to it, is thoroughly enjoyable. And the psychological undercurrents also blend in well.
This was a great read. I know I haven’t said much about the plot or the characterisation, but this novel is better enjoyed read than analysed.
I picked up this short biography at the airport in Tokyo and I found it very stimulating. I enjoyed Murakami’s many links between running and writing – some quite profound. I also like his no-nonsense writing style. And this book has definitely inspired me to run more!
I think anybody who is interested in either running or writing might enjoy this book, but for people who are interested in both, I definitely recommend it.
The Siege by Simon Kernick caught my eye at a Heathrow Airport bookstore just before boarding a plane to Tokyo. I enjoyed it in a sort of I-need-a-book-I-can-enjoy-by-the-pool sort of way, though I think the blurb was actually more interesting than the novel itself. Or, I should really rephrase that, the novel offered few surprises beyond that which was hinted at in the blurb.
Post 9/11, you really need to include some totally unexpected and highly surprising twists and turns if you are going to keep people’s attention when your main characters are terrorists with Middle Eastern connections. Reality has far outstripped fiction in this sub-category, and I don’t think what’s hinted at in the blurb of this novel is really what you get when you read the whole book. Though there are some decent surprises.
When I came across The Black Path by Åsa Larson at the Kinokuniya Book Store at Dubai Mall, I thought it was rather hilarious that I would once again discover a Swedish crime writer in English translation before I spotted it in a Swedish bookstore while visiting Sweden during my summer holidays.
The Black Path has an interesting plot with characters that show just the right amount of Scandinavian melancholy and angst. If that is your thing, this is probably a book for you.
Camilla Läckberg är en mästare på att skriva deckare där lager efter lager skalas bort som på en lök och man vet ändå inte riktigt var det bär hän. En hel del personer är också ganska detaljerat porträtterade så på det stora hela är det aldrig fel med en ny Läckberg roman på nattduksbordet eller i solstolen. Med en ganska lättsam stil går hon också på djupet när det gäller människors motivation och hur de döljer sina hemligheter och vad de egentligen vill innerst inne.
Samtidigt börjar jag faktiskt bli lite less på Erica. Hon börjar bli väldigt förutsägbar och mer och mer av en besserwisser. Lite synd. I de tidigare romanerna var hon en av de mera intressanta personerna i handlingen. Det finns heller inga överraskningar hos Patrik. Jag tror att om Läckberg kunde spetsa till karaktärsdragen hos Patrik och Erica och få samspelet dem emellan att bli lite mer komplext och spänningsladdat (som t.ex. mellan Ebba och Mårten) skulle resultatet bli en roman som verkligen lyste, både när det gäller handling och personer.
Läckberg’s eighth novel has been published in English under the title The Angel Maker’s Wife. This is very good crime fiction, though the plot is far superior to the characterisation.