Invisible Murder – Book Review

Vejen, Denmark

With the topic of refugees and terrorism very much in the news, this novel by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, is written for our time and makes for illuminating reading.

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Two impoverished Roma boys are scavenging for something to sell in the ruins of an abandoned Soviet military hospital. Purportedly to improve the lives of themselves and their poverty-stricken families in a rural village of Hungary, one of the boys embarks on a radical plan. Far away in middle class Denmark, Red cross nurse, Nina Borg inadvertently risks her own life and those of her family, to assist a group of Hungarian refugees but little does she know her actions will have disastrous ramifications.

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Source: Economist.com
“Jobbik. It had to be Jobbik, taking to the streets to protest the Jews, Communists and Romas from ‘ruining out nation.’ Lusja straightened herself up pursing her lips as though she had found something disgusting on her shoe. ‘God spare us from any more racist, goose stepping idiots.’ The driver turned in his seat. ‘Jobbik aren’t racists,’ he said. ‘They’re just for Hungary.’ Lusja straightened up in her seat and stared daggers at the driver, 128 pounds of indignant humanism versus 260 pounds of overweight-but-muscular nationalism. ‘And what kind of Hungary would that be?’ she asked. ‘A Hungary clinically scrubbed of all diversity? A Hungary where you can be arrested just because you skin is a different colour? A Hungary where it’s totally okay for Romas to have a life expectancy that’s fifteen years shorter than the rest of the population?’
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Source: Hungarianfreepress.com

A novel that is carefully crafted and well-balanced, allowing you to understand both sides, their personal  motives and furthermore, to feel empathy for the characters woven into the story line: The studious brother who in one brief moment is denied a legal career and betterment for himself, and his family, only because of a racially slanted agenda, his quest to save his wayward orphan brother who, by way of contrast, chooses an extremist, crash-through course of action, and the consequences for each; the innocent bystanders; the well-meaning humanitarians in Denmark, the terrorist thugs and ordinary residents of homogeneous, suburbia integrating with ‘foreigners’.

Are they all helping or hindering the cause? What toll does it take, personally, on those who help the less fortunate, the traumatized, the dangerous, and those on the fringes of society?

In the face of a changing Europe, this Scandinavian novel illuminates some salient points to ponder about inter-related events that shape our modern lives.

Rating 8/10

Other Novels by these bestselling authors: The Boy in the Suitcase

 

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Sea Glass by Anita Shreve – Book Review

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New Hampshire, 1929, and an eager young salesmen proposes to a young bank worker he hardly knows. He thinks she is beautiful and she lays aside his flaws, as she might a small stain on a beautifully embroidered tablecloth. Pure and dignified, she begins her new life as a married woman, with high hopes, but both the Wall Street crash and oppressive working conditions for the city’s mill workers (who are readying to strike), mean that the newlywed’s love and resilience is to be tested to its limits.

Honora reaches down to touch the fabric in the carton. Faded chintz, and something else. A framed photograph tucked in to the side of the box, as if snatched from a dresser at the last minute.  A photograph of a woman and a boy. Years ago, Honora thinks, studying the dress that falls nearly to the ankle. The stairs creak under her weight, which even with the bedding isn’t much.  At the top of the stairs a sense of emptiness overwhelms her and for the first time she feels the enormity of the task ahead of her.

 

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This is one of Anita’s better texts, and captured my attention, particularly for the excellent and subtle way she not only describes the scenes but in addition, conveys the emotions of the characters and the atmosphere and life of the era.

Though McDermott is just twenty, already he is a loom fixer. Her has been in the mills since he was twelve, the day his father pissed off. Every day, except Sundays the din rises up around him and makes a hollow sucking sound in his ears, as if he had dived in to the ocean and was trying to come up for air. He repairs broken looms and checks others to make sure the cloth is weaving properly. He hates his job, since the bosses have ordered the machines to go at a faster and faster speed.

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This novel also gave me a snapshot of the difficulties of everyday life and the stoicism of the women living in that era. The ingenuity of their saving ways: how every last object was saved and turned into something useful. Nothing was wasted.

The people of this time were the original recycling environmentalists!  A woollen jumper full of holes can be un-ravelled and knitted up into a new jumper! A coat that has seen better days or has stains can be un-hemmed, reversed and then transformed into a smaller skirt. These people lived through hard times and not only survived on very little but made very little go a long way.

Communication was reliant on the written word and the postman. Families received invitation for get-togethers, months in advance. Hardship was a common theme, Rich men became poor overnight. And throughout it all, Honora remains composed and unflustered, collecting beautiful pieces of sea glass on her daily beach walks.

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The early twentieth century is not that long ago and yet, lives are so very different from then. Thank you Anita, for writing a delightful tale that left me with a smile on my face and something to ponder about.

Rating: 8.5 /10