reviews and what-not

Peter finds Leif GW Persson’s Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End “deliciously told, with lots of humor and with live, fallible and flawed characters.” I admit that I was completely unable to read the advanced reader copy I was sent. The translation by Paul Norlen seemed quite good, but the total absence of sympathetic characters and the piecemeal structure (no chapters, but lots of short passages from a multitude of points of view) coupled with an extremely cynical view of police work kept making me find excuses to put it down, even though it is a fictional account based on the investigation of Olof Palme’s assassination and the investigation that never went anywhere. Peter felt differently.

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End is at the same time fascinating and shocking. We embark on a journey deep into the underbelly of the Swedish police force, and meet lazy, incompetent and perverse police officers concerned mostly with position, power, pay, comradeship, drinking and sex. We meet cynical politicians and spin masters in controlling positions.

It’s a dark novel and a dark journey which not only seems very realistic but also masterfully recreates the blanket of uncertainty, the multiple ways insights get lost in huge and complex organizational environments where most actors have their own agendas. Fortunately there is also sarcasm, black satire, dark humor, mind boggling insights, and dialogues that make you laugh out loud. It is a wonderful novel, a riveting anti-procedure police procedural, a psychological drama, and an adventurous journey into a murky landscape we can perhaps only hope doesn’t exist but most likely does. The publication of Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif GW Persson is one of the major crime fiction events of 2010!

The World Socialist Web Site has an article on the Stieg Larsson phenomenon and criticizes the trilogy for feeding vengeance fantasies and treating right and wrong in the same dualistic way that right-wing demagogues do, concluding that (in contrast to Sjowall and Wahloo’s more complex view) Larsson is guilty of “middle class ‘leftism’.” Whether you agree or not with the author’s conclusions, the appeal that the trilogy has for people who more typically enjoy books in which representatives of the law and/or libertarian crusaders triumph through responding to violence with violence is thought-provoking.

The Times of Johannesburg (I think – it’s hard to tell from the site, but it has a South African URL) offers reviews of three thrillers, including Jo Nebso’s The Snowman (“Scandinavian crime fiction at its best – nutritious dollops of social introspection skilfully intertwined with sheer terror.”) and Henning Mankell’s The Man from Beijing (“a political discourse on colonial exploitation in Zimbabwe and the tensions inherent in the modern Chinese Communist elite. Yawn.”)

Xanthe Galanis gives Camilla Lackberg’s The Stonecutter high marks and calls it “great entertainment.”

The Boston Book Bums think Yrsa Siguradottir’s Last Rituals is fun to read, “a quick read that blended the macabre with the academic. Smart and engaging, while not pace set by violent action, Last Rituals moves along with rapidity because Sigurdardottir shows patient skills with characters and setting.”

Larissa Kyser likes Ake Edwardson’s Sun and Shadow a great deal, even though he does things she usually doesn’t like. A substantial and very thoughtful review by someone who thinks deeply about what she’s reading.

The Guardian has a fascinating look at the far right in Sweden and its current position in national politics – fascinating background for some of the themes encountered in crime fiction from Sweden.

Another newspaper article expresses astonishment that there is life after Wallander, though illustrating the point with a photo of Kenneth Branagh.

Norm (aka Uriah) thinks the two Swedish films of the Larsson books are terrific and he can barely contain his impatience to see the final film in the trilogy. He takes a brief break to take issue with a Beatrice article that  calls Larsson’s trilogy “exploitive trash” (The essay is titled: “Stieg Larsson Was a Bad, Bad Writer.” Two bads in one headline.)

Dorte reviews Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s My Soul to Take and thinks it’s a good, good book. Though she is far more eloquent than that as she explains why it worked so well for her.

Karen posts a newsflash to the crime and mystery fiction room at FriendFeed: “Waterstones Picadilly reports sightings of two women foisting The Redbreast instead of The Snowman on unsuspecting purchasers of Jo Nesbo’s books.” Who could that be?

Janet Rudolph reports that Sweden is putting its popular crime fiction writers on stamps. How novel.

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12 thoughts on “reviews and what-not

  1. Thank you for all of these informative articles/links. Wish the debates on the Larsson trilogy would end.
    Yes, I wish Lizbeth Salander had gone to women’s organizations and rape crisis centers and sought the help of a woman attorney to get help, instead of defending herself and trying to get justice for herself. But then there would not have been an interesting trio of books that compelled millions to read them (still going on in New York). Salander is at the heart of the books. In the third book, she does get justice with help from several smart, capable women and Blomkwist, and it’s not through violence, but intelligence, strategy, cooperation, etc. But her character makes or breaks the success of the books, even with all of the other plots thrown in.
    And many women readers cheer her on because she fought back from horrendous abuse and didn’t remain a helpless victim or totally withdraw from society. Her spirit of fightback, her intelligence, her courage contribute much to the success of the book.
    I don’t as a rule espouse violence or vengeance, but I understand women fighting back against this type of injustice. Women seem to get this a lot more than men do.
    And I wouldn’t put an equal sign between the perpetrators of violence, rape, torture and murder and the self-defense or even revenge of the survivors of such terror.
    But the books wouldn’t have been bestsellers without Salander being portrayed as she is.

    • I agree with your refusal to equate fighting back with raw aggression. There seems to be a double standard at work. One of the reasons people object to Salander taking action is that she “ought” to be enlightened and understand that her aggressors are tools of a system and that she should reject violence and turn the other cheek or explain social oppression to her rapist and hope he repents and sees the light – in short, as a woman she is failing by not behaving like a victim or a nurturer whose virginal passivity is a response to being brutalized. I can’t think when I’ve seen such a lively debate around a male character who fights back. Though I can think of a male character who doesn’t – Myshkin in Dostoevesky’s The Idiot. He is a truly good man who is singularly ineffective and ends up in a lunatic asylum. (He’s also a favorite character of mine.)

  2. Well, those who equal aggressor and victim or survivor as I prefer–have they ever been the “victim” of such an act? Or listened to women who have? There’s some kind of disconnect here.

    One cannot educate a rapist or abuser and the burden here is being put on the women, who are already abused.

    Yes, some women here go to rape crisis centers and get help or get an attorney or a counselor or other help. But some women do not or cannot; their circumstances are too awful. And in domestic violence situations, often women are afraid to leave, or have children, a house, financial situations, etc., with an abuser, or as I just found out, are even afraid the abuser will harm the family pets, lots of reasons.

    But where women defend themselves or their children, I get it.
    Revenge is a different matter, but if the abuse is great or continues, the rage must be huge and so must the feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness, especially if the woman can’t get away or has no support network.

    Whatever it is, the burden just can’t be put on the already-abused woman. I guess there is a disconnect and lack of understanding or empathy with women. Maybe a lot of men don’t get it.

    Anyway, Salander made those books and they sure wouldn’t have succeeded without her. She’s a hero. I cheered when in movie I, she rushed in and saved Blomkvist.

  3. Just one more thing and I hope this is my last post on this anywhere: Having an overall political perspective of society, which I count myself as having, of war, the enormous economic crisis, with fewer jobs yet big profits, the development of the Tea Parties, bigotry of all types, etc. But it isn’t complete without understanding sexism, and even misogyny. That can’t be left out.
    Seeing the culture and psychology of those who abuse and torture women, who show hatred of women and need to dominate and control them, has to be counted and seen. It’s in books and movies everywhere. And it’s on the news, too, with horrible stories every day.
    And that is what Stieg Larsson was addressing when he named his first book, “The Men Who Hate Women”; he knew what he was talking about. His long-time companion said he would have opposed changing that title.
    Larsson wasn’t an educator. He was a story teller but he was explaining something, too. He was a political person. The resolution in book III is not through violence. Salander is vindicated by others who help her. That’s what she needed all along and hadn’t gotten it.
    Anyway, I hope I’m done. I have moved on to Italy, South Africa and now back to Chicago with Sara Paretsky, one of my favorite writers. And a key theme of the book deals with sexism…!

  4. Thanks for saying that you also disliked the Persson novel – it’s one of very few books I truly hated reading, and I was beginning to feel alone! (I wonder if his audience skews male – as a female reader I certainly didn’t feel like the author was talking to me. Which probably connects to Larsson in some way, but I’m on holiday and haven’t the brainpower for that sort of analysis right now!)

    • My long-lost twin! I seem to remember Steve Murray commenting that he didn’t like Persson’s work, but I may be misremembering. Well at least there are two of us. I feel bad, because I have met the translator, who is very nice, and so I would have liked to enjoy the book 😦

  5. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for your commendations of my posts. I think I’ve worn myself out on Lizbeth Salander and the Larsson trilogy.
    Petrona has a good post on why these books are good, and I made some comments, agreeing and saying, too, that the resolution in Book III is not violent; it shows cooperation, strategic planning and action by several smart, courageous and wholly competent women, and Blomkvist.

    And, I have to say, that as a person with a political view of the world, that understanding and sympathizing with abused women (or underpaid, laid off or homeless, child-careless women) is so important. I don’t see how anyone can be politically astute without this.

    I do worry though that with the state budget cuts, there are cuts or closings of shelters for abused women and their children, and rape crisis centers, and this will force many women to stay with abusers or resort to desperate moves.

    Anyway, thanks a lot, and the Sara Paretsky book doesn’t disappoint, as hers never do. And, as someone who grew up in the Windy City, I like V.I. Warshawski and her exploits even more.

  6. When you quote me at length, as here, I would appreciate it if you at least did me the courtesy of linking to the post where you have taken the quote from.

    Sincerely,
    Peter at ScandinavianBooks.com

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