Monday, December 24, 2012

My favorite book this Christmas is A.M. Holme's brilliantly written "May We Be Forgiven."

My favorite book this Christmas is A.M. Holme's brilliantly written "May We Be Forgiven."

This is a novel about the destruction of a family and how the main character pulls it and himself back together. It is an ambitious and often enthralling book, which 
The Silver family seem like the perfect product of the American dream. The descendant of recent immigrants, George is a highly rewarded television executive, married to Jane, a beauty, with two kids at boarding school; his brother, Harold, is a professor of history. So far, so successful. But the Thanksgiving scene at the beginning of the novel is full of intimations of trouble: Harold fancies Jane; the children are locked into computer screens; nobody helps clear up. Before the reader has even had a chance to blink, George has gone mad, killed two people, been sectioned, escaped, found Harold in bed with Jane, and murdered the latter with a lamp.
Homes plays with the substance of the American dream, and gives us a horrific, internet-age deconstruction. In homage to the fast-paced, senselessly violent narratives with which we are increasingly surrounded, she piles the incidents on Harold and his remaining family without breaking narrative stride. Her style – pacy, unwordy and direct – moves things along breathlessly. Soon after George is put (again) in a mental hospital, Harold embarks on a string of casual sexual encounters, is imprisoned by two children, and is sacked from his teaching job. These things happen, Homes suggests, because we all live in bubbles, incapable of communicating, kept alive by suspicion and medication.
There is a sense that we are becoming desensitised, not just emotionally, but in all other aspects, through technology. Everybody in the book is seeking some kind of relationship, even if, like George, they are incapable of keeping it. A female teacher finds comfort in George’s 11-year-old daughter; two demented old people that Harold ends up housing nurse dolls as if they were children. And yet nobody really knows how to connect with others in a true manner. Harold muses: “The loss of the human touch scares me.”
The narrative is unrelenting, and yet it makes a kind of sense that all these troubles should be brought to bear on a few individuals. What’s interesting about this book is that for all its ferocious now-ness, its messages are old fashioned. Peace is found in a South African village, amongst community and participation; acts of kindness bring their own rewards. Homes, however, is not a pious or a schmaltzy writer – she is aware that things are compromised, as when George’s son Nate realises that the South African villagers he’s been supporting are really only interested in what material goods they can buy. But this doesn’t detract from the morality of the book’s core. Only connect, Homes tells us, and we can escape the nightmare of the 21st century – if only for a while.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nordic crime lovers- Asa Larsson

If you are like me and have spent the last few years reading crime fiction set in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, you will love the new author that Village Books has discovered- Asa Larsson. Her series of novels are set in Kiruna which is in Lapland in the North of Sweden. Her books revolve around a young female lawyer Rebecka Martinsson and two local detectives Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Ulrich. Kiruna in Lapland is the location of a baptist religious revival which forms the backdrop to the crimes. The extreme weather, constant daylight, subzero conditions and Sami culture which Larsson explores provide an insight into this unusual location. I have just read three Asa Larsson books in a row, I thoroughly recommend them. Start with the first book "The Savage Altar".