Iceland
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Summer Reading

Summer in Australia, means that many of us can use the excuse of the heat, to relax inside the air-con with a good book, guilt free. And if you are anything like me, it would usually be a good crime novel that you reach for.

As my summer is now over, I thought I’d share a few lesser known authors I read, in particular some Icelandic authors. 

Iceland Thingvellir

Authors from Iceland

One Icelandic author that you may not be familiar with is psychological thriller/crime writer, Arnaldur Indridason. I really enjoyed the tone of his books, particularly how he depicts the cold bleak landscape of Iceland using this to not only to illustrate the tragedy and sadness in the plot, but also to reflect thoughtfully on the past.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for Indridason’s protagonist, when the character reveals the great personal cost of police detective work. Two of Indridason’s books include, The Draining Lake and Tainted Blood which is alternatively: “Jar City” and both give an insight into police procedures.

Jar city is the story of a murder mystery that spans a generation and discusses the implications of inherited traits or diseases in a country where they Human genome project is extremely topical. (The Icelandic genetic pool has, to a large extent, been isolated from external influences). Jar city has been made into a motion picture and the cinematography in certain rural scenes, is absolutely fantastic, as one would expect from a country as scenic as Iceland. And right now, virtual travel is best!

‘The Draining Lake’ delves a little into historical fiction and Icelandic political attitudes during the Cold War era, so it also provided an insight into cultural beliefs of that time. For example, police staff being rung at home by members of the public or getting into political arguments with suspects, seems not to be an unusual occurrence for detectives in Iceland. 

Iceland

One Review states,” THE DRAINING LAKE boasts an interesting and unusual angle, especially for those of us not familiar with Iceland’s recent history. There’s a link to the Cold War and spying, and to the 1950s when idealistic Icelandic teenagers went to study in East Germany. Unlike Indridason’s earlier books, where I never felt much of a sense of place, Iceland and its society plays a more vital role in this book – particularly as the posting from hell for diplomats! “

Suggested reads  by Icelandic authors: Arnaldur Indridason or,  if your preference is not for thrillers/crime, you might like to try Iceland’s Nobel prize for Literature winner Halldor Laxness, whose books are available include, Independent People, The Fish can Sing, Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station. I hope you find these entertaining as Icelandic literature is something well worth pondering over.

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Reading Recommendations

Blogger M-R has just referred me to the Daughters of Time, which I downloaded on the Kindle last night, so I am keen to get started on that book today.

I hope you enjoy discovering some new authors this summer. (Or winter if you are living in the south).

Do you have any recommendations of books you have read lately?

Crime fiction/Historical Fiction/Autobiographies? It matters not the genre.

I would love to hear them.

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Community

Shadow – Book by Karin Altvegen

Very Lord of the RingsNowadays people talk a lot about chasing happiness. There are a multitude of books courses about being happy. Feeling happy has become something that we constantly desire convinced that when we have found the secret to being happy, everything will fall into place perfectly. Not being happy has come to be equated with failure. Is it possible to be happy each waking day, year in year out? Is it something worth striving for? Karin Altvegen explores this in her novel, “Shadow.”

Prior to reading this book, I had only read one other book by this author. Shame which had been described as:

“An existential thriller about the power of fear and the brains capability to repress things that is to painful to remember. About the fatal consequences of an atypical childhood.  And about the biggest shame of all: The feeling of not having been loved by one’s parents.”

It seems this theme and moral stand is continued in Karin’s novel, Shadow; So it was with trepidation and a pre-conceived idea that I read this book. And it certainly was about not facing one’s fears and loneliness! The shadows of the past can be forgotten, but their imprint might be indelibly fixed.

This is the story of a son trying to emulate his father: a psychological thriller about relationships and how the past can influence the future – how actions live on after they are long forgotten – what starts from a lack of good parenting, is then compounded by a serious lack of communication, ends with characters who take drastic and monumentally tragic couses of action.

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Featuring the writers Alice and Axel Ragnerfelt who hold a dark secret, ‘Shadow’ is a family history marked by what seems almost to be a generational pattern of despair. communication.

“She remembered how at first she was so proud to bear the Ragnerfeldt name. Her friends would get a dreamy look in their eyes whenever he was mentioned, and they wanted to hear all about what he was like. But when they noticed her ambivalence and lack of enthusiasm, she was met with suspicion, as if her words had sprung from envy. No one wanted to hear anything negative about Axel, the national treasure. She stopped saying what she felt and joined his crowd of admirers, at least outwardly. It was easier that way.”

One protagonist ponders the moment at which a personal calamity begins?

“When does the first flake fall that will form the snowball? At what stage does the movement start? Was it the day when he secretly chose the linguistic path, …. By now everything had been in motion for a long time. There was only one hour left until what they thought was theirs would be lost for ever.”

“But even a bell’s invisible crack is revealed by a dull peal. Had the evil always been inside him? Or had it taken over when everything was stolen from him. When all that remained to him was the ability to shatter in order to retaliate.  Too late he realized that he had directed his revenge at himself. That what he had shown himself to be capable of had chained him to a shame too heavy to bear.

So how does he handle it?

Gratefully he felt it (the alcohol) take over. The feeling of liberation when the brain when numb. When he was no longer capable of comprehending the depth of his pain. Why weren’t human beings born this way? With their blood spiked from the start with a small percentage of alcohol? With the defense mechanism disconnected and the soul in a state of peace. Was survival really so important that it outweighed all suffering?

Sometimes I think that today we have trouble finding happiness because of our deep fear of suffering. Is happiness a type of contentment?
Contentment is a feeling of having obtained or achieved what can reasonable be desired. And this novel discusses individuals who struggle with contentment…..the courage to settle down and dare to be satisfied with what they have.Very Lord of the Rings

But then on page 154 Altvegen writes, “Someone who puts caution first stifles the life he’s trying to save.”  and the writer’s astute observations made me ponder more about happiness and life, but in a different way.  A tale of murder and family secrets is not for everyone, yet I wondered why this novel was left sitting on my TBR shelf, for so long. It is seriously good.

Shadow is a novel  by Karin Altvegen from 2007 that has been translated into English.

Rating: 8/10

The good: Skillful and suspenseful convoluted plot that switches back and forth with  surprising twists and turns. The depth and layers of this book gives me somethings to ponder about.

 

Book review, Community

Recommended Scandinavian Authors

blog pictures 001Until recently, I ran a Scandinavian book club amongst the Nordic clubs in my city. The book club was a success until everyone got too busy and decided to go home to Scandinavia for the summer. (Can’t say I blame them!) Over the years that it was active, I managed to accumulate a list of interesting authors, and at my blogger friend Poppy’s The Viking Queen’s suggestion, have published the below list according to country of author’s origin, for anyone who wishes to discover the wonderful world of Scandinavian fiction.*

  • My primary interest is crime fiction so be warned that this list is not exhaustive and is heavily biased towards  writers of crime fiction. Most of these titles have been translated into English.

I will reveiw Lars Kepler’s book in coming weeks.

Danmark –

Christensen, Lars Saaybe – Historical Fiction

Christian Jungersen – The Exception TBR
Sara Blaedel – Blue Blood, tr. Erik J Macki & Tara F Chace. Crime fiction featuring Louis Rick.
Elsebeth Egholm – Three Dog Night. An Excellent Writer

Friis, Agnete & Kaaberbol, LeneThe Boy in the Suitcase; Not a bad read

Peter Høeg – Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, (a great read) and others much more obscure
Steffen Jacobsen – When the Dead Awaken
Martin Jensen – The King’s Hounds, tr. Tara Chace

Lotte and Soren Hammer – The Hanging, tr. Ebba Segerberg

Jussi Adler-Olsen – Redemption

Dan Turrell – Murder in the Dark, tr. Mark Mussari

Finland –

Antti Tuomainen – The Healer tr: Lola Rogers  TBR

Leena Lehtolainen – Her Enemy, tr. Owen Witesman  TBR

Pekka Hiltunen – Cold Courage, tr. Owen Witesman TBR

Jokinen, Seppo  – Detective Sakari Koskinen series TBR

Iceland –

Arnaldur Indridason – Cold Crime/ police procedural series featuring Inspector Erlendur: at least one of which was made into a movie (Jar City)

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson – Daybreak,  TBR

Halldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station (historical fiction; depicts Icelandic rural life)

Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Someone to Watch Over Me TBR

Norway –

Thomas Enger – Burned

Karin Fossum – I Can See in the Dark, tr. James Anderson. Crime Fiction. Often writes about people on society’s fringe. Inspector Konrad Sejer series

Jostein Gaarder – Sophie’s World – Fiction story that introduces you to philosophy in a fascinating way.

Knut Hamsun – Hunger; I would get shot for not mentioning it, and drawn and quartered for saying that it was boring, my apologies to all Norwegians, but,as it was considered a landmark in literature, it is listed here.

Gaute Heivoll – Before I Burn, tr. Don Bartlett

Anne Holt – Crime fiction from a former Norwegian Minister for Justice including the Hanne Wilhelmson detective series and characters: Former FBI profiler Johanne Vik & Detective Inspector Adam Stubo

Jorn Lier Horst – Closed for Winter, tr. Anne Bruce. Character: Chief Inspector William Wisting, Larvik

Jan Kjaerstad – The Conqueror

Gunnar Kopperud – Historical fiction and politics intertwined. Should be just my thing but “The Time of Light” is violent and not my favourite book, but listed here anyway)

Jo Nesbo – Thriller/crime fiction series with Detective Harry Hole. Also stand alone novel “Headhunters” was made into a movie in 2011

Per Pettersen – Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia (set in Denmark during WWII)

Gunnar Staalesen – Cold Hearts, tr. Don Bartlett

Linn Ullman – Daughter of actress Liv Ullman, novelist. Stella Descending is a good read.

Sweden –

Karin Altvegen – Shame, Shadow:- psychological thrillers

Ake Edwardson, – Series of crime fiction including Death Angels

Kerstin Ekman,

Kjell Eriksson,Crime series

Marianne Fredrikkson – Hanna’s daughters: Wonderful story of three generations of woman. Excellent fiction. ‘Simon & the Oaks’ was made into a movie in 2011

Grebe & Traff – More Bitter Than Death

Marie Hermanson – The Devil’s Sanctuary, tr. Neil Smith

Published in the US only (at the moment):  Anna Jansson – Strange Bird, tr. Paul Norlen, Stockholm Text

Mari Jungstedt – The Double Silence, Unseen, Unspoken. (Crime Fiction)

Mons Kallentoft – Savage Spring, tr. Neil Smith; Midwinter Sacrifice

Lars Kepler – The Fire Witness, The Hypnotist (currently reading, and reads well, scarey, and a bit bloodthirsty in parts)

Camilla Lackberg – Journalist Erica Falck crime fiction series set in Fjallbacka, Sweden Light crime fiction where the characters become more like old friends

Jens Lapidus – Never F**k Up (apa Never Screw Up), tr. Astri von Arbin Ahlander

Stieg Larson – Lisbeth Salander Trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, well you know the rest…..

Åsa Larsson – Rebecka Martinsson series of detective novels.

John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the right one in- Story about vampires, but don’t let that put you off. I would never read books on vampires, but this one is very different and was also made into a movie, and remade into an American movie.

Henning Mankell – Very popular crime fiction writer. A multitude of books, and TV series (Swedish/English)

Liza Marklund – Very popular crime fiction with the character: Annika Bengtzon (journalist) Also a TV series

Anders de la Motte – Game, tr. Neil Smith

Håkan Nesser – Set in a fictional town in Sweden with Inspector Van Veteran (police procedural/crime fiction with cutting sardonic wit)

Woman with Birthmark, The Return

Kristina Ohlsson – The Disappeared, tr. Marlaine Delargy

Leif Persson – Linda, as in the Linda Murder

Roslund & Hellstrom  – Fictional character Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. – in my TBR pile.

Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – A timeless Martin Beck police procedural and crime fiction series written in sixties/seventies

Alexander Söderberg – Set in the South of Sweden

Johan Theorin – The Darkest Room. Creepy thriller/crime fiction set on Gotland, an island off the coast of Sweden

Tursten, Helene – crime fiction featuring  Inspector Huss, Gothenburg

Worthy also of note:

Andrew Stevensen – Non- Fiction; “Summer light”; A Walk across Norway. Not a Norwegian writer, but nevertheless great travel account.

Thunder God – a historical fiction novel about the Vikings and what it was like to live in those times. Loved this one, was really in the moment with the character.

Some more authors that I am not so familiar with:

Tor Age Bringsvaerd – science fiction literature – Norwegian
Ingvar Ambjörnsen – Elling series – one has been made into a movie
Anne B Ragde
Zoë Ferraris
Roy Jacobsen
Erlend Loe
Louis Masterson
Sulaiman Addonia
Margit Sandemo
Dag Solstad – • Professor Andersen’s Night

And if you like those books, you probably would also like this one, which is  more a travel book, but its non-fiction theme is Scandinavia.

True North – Gavin Francis  Travels in the Arctic, following the travels of ancient Nordic explorers.

I recommend checking out Karen over at Euro crime for seeking details of other Scandinavian authors and further listings of individual Scandinavian titles to ponder about.