Posted by: billpurdue | May 23, 2011

Two novels

I’m going to have a little moan about two books: one that I have just finished reading and one that I really don’t want to finish.

The first is Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif G W Persson [Doubleday, £16.99 9780385614177]. Events are sparked off when a man dies after falling from a window in a block of student flats. The man turns out not to be a typical student, but an American who has been compiling a book about espionage in Sweden. The investigation into the death begins normally enough and all indicators point towards suicide, but as the novel progresses, it emerges that a Swedish secret service organisation has had its eye on the man for some time.

The blurb states that this novel has been acclaimed as one of the greatest ever Swedish crime novels. I can’t claim to have read a lot of Swedish crime novels, but I think you have only to read one or two Henning Mankell “Wallander” novels to realise that this may not be the greatest ever example of Scandinavian noir. Perhaps one reason for the accolade is  because it is preoccupied with police corruption, intrigue and incompetence. Also it may have been inspired to a certain extent by the murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme back in 1986, a crime still unsolved. Whatever the reason I’m afraid I can sum up the novel in one word ; unsatisfactory.

One of the main problems I found was the language. I don’t know if it was rather poorly translated, but some of the sentence construction or expressions were rather awkward to say the least. Then there was the quite bewildering number of characters –including one with the same surname as the author – Persson. It might have been a good idea to make notes as I went along to keep track of everything. So I wasn’t sorry to reach the end of this novel – and ending, I might say, which was not very conclusive. I suppose that one thing you can say in its favour is that I did finish it.

I’m not expecting to reach the ending of a quite different novel: Darkmans by Nicola Barker [Fourth Estate £9.99  978-0007193639]. It might have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but I’m afraid I’m not going to get past the first 40 odd pages. Since I haven’t read all 838 pages of the book, I can’t criticise too much, but if it continues in the same way as the first 40 pages, then it’s not for me. If you want a very long novel and you like just about everything described in exquisite / excruciating detail (depending on your preferences), then this might be for you. It’s a mixture of the 21st century (Ashford, Kent, to be precise ) and the medieval with fantasy and ghostliness mixed in. But that’s not really a very good description – read the reviews and try the book for yourself, if you’ve got the staying power!

Lowdham Book Festival

The festival is fast approaching and it’s longer than previous years: 14th June to 14th July. Distinguished guests  include Gervase Phinn, Ian Macmillan, (the Bard of Barnsley), Barbara Dickson, Jasper Fforde and John Simpson from the BBC. Go to the website for full details of the attractions and how to book.

Next time : books on canals

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