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Category Archive for 'Sweden'

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist are back in another thriller, the fifth in the Millenium series with began with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Steig Larsson. Following Larsson’s death in 2004, and the posthumous publication of three of his thrillers, his heirs hired David Lagercrantz to continue the series. This is the second follow-up novel by Lagercrantz, a somewhat new approach from Larsson’s, in that Lagercrantz’s work contains less horrific violence and more inner analysis. Here many of the previous characters play roles, and two dozen or so new ones are added. Lagercrantz thoughtfully provides a character guide for those who may be new to the series and those who may want an update. Lisbeth Salander plays her role from prison, where she is serving a two-month sentence for having refused to testify in her court case for abducting a severely autistic child and spiriting him to safety, an event which occurred in the previous novel. Here Lisbeth is investigating a group which performed some genetic experiments twenty-five years ago, one in which she may have been an unwilling participant. Blomqvist is investigating a hacker attack on the Brussels financial markets, especially one company involving a Swedish firm. Eventually the two investigations begin to overlap. Salander and Blomqvist dominate the action less than in the past, and the novel is less violent. Some plot devices may tire the reader and coincidence plays a big role, but Lizbeth may have discovered something important to her own growth. Time and future novels will tell.

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The intensely self-conscious narrator of this novel is nowhere nearly as self-aware as she would have her readers believe. A young woman who works in the local hospital cafeteria in Norrkoping, Sweden, to pay the rent on her small apartment, the narrator believes that she is “more than the situation in which [she] finds herself when [she] is wearing [her] ugly uniform.” Unlike her fellow employees of the hospital, she has attended college, leaving, she says, because she never knew she was expected to do any more than learn facts, and she “had gone all the way through high school without really learning the skill of abstract thought,” something that more insightful people learn as part of growing up. She believes that her leaving was not her fault. More self-conscious than self-aware, she is now at loose ends, and she has few female friends, even among those people she knew in college. “I cannot get away from the notion that all forms of sisterhood would mean lowering myself to an inferior level,” she believes, an attitude which does not endear her to other women. As the story line begins, Swedish author Therese Bohman chooses incisive details to illustrate her speaker’s life and thoughts, often using images that reveal far more than the speaker herself recognizes. Before long, one of the doctors rises to the obvious sexual bait dangled by the narrator, with the expected results. Older and married, he is in her bed not long after offering to drive her home from work. The complications and surprises which result are accompanied by details of great irony, which gives a patina of humor to this story of a girl who may or may not be a real woman by the end of the novel.

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Eighty million copies of the three novels in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series have been sold since they were released in Sweden and then translated into almost every language in the world. Most readers who began this series – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006), and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2007) – became instant fans of its main characters, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, and went on to read all of the books. Chosen by the heirs of Stieg Larsson’s estate to be the author of this new Millenium novel, David Lagercrantz is a Swedish journalist who is also a successful novelist, and it may be for these story-telling skills, especially, that he was selected to write the sequel to The Girl Who Played with Fire, Larsson’s last novel. For Lagercrantz, the task of succeeding as the author of a new Millenium novel must have been intimidating, if not terrifying, with everyone who has ever read these novels looking for mistakes, changes, and signs that main characters may not be so intriguing in this novel, or that the plots may not be as full of suspense and wild excitement, or that Lagercrantz might not be up to the task as Larsson’s successor. Time to stop wondering. Here Lagercrantz’s skills as a fiction writer add to the novel, and while it may not have the raw energy – and sometimes sadistic violence – of Stieg Larsson’s novels, it is more polished, with a fine sense of plotting which allows the author to draw in the reader and draw out the excitement.

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Imagining his father waiting at a train station outside of Auschwitz, where he has just been liberated, Swedish author Goran Rosenberg, the child of two Jewish Holocaust survivors from Poland, has decided to begin his memoir about his father’s life with his father’s journey to Sweden, the place where he plans to live but where he knows no one. There, his father plans to close the book on his earlier life in Poland and his incarceration at Auschwitz and settle down to make a new life. In his early twenties and weighing just over eighty pounds when he arrives, his father David finds and then arranges for his future wife Hala to join him after a two-year separation, then begins his family and their lives as survivors of the Holocaust in a completely foreign environment. Goran Rosenberg’s memoir, monumental in its insights into post-war survival, clear and unequivocal in its presentation of facts, artistic and beautifully written, and emotionally involving for the reader, makes the Rosenberg family, with its difficulties and its triumphs, more than the story of one family, however much we want them to succeed. Through this memoir, Goran Rosenberg makes them symbolic of all the survivors of this terrible war as they try also to survive their survivorhood.

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So wild and imaginative that it challenges the very meaning of the word “farce,” which, for me is usually something light-weight, silly, and easily forgotten, Swedish author Jonas Jonasson expands this “farce” beyond the customary local or domestic focus and uses the whole world as his stage. Drawing his characters from South Africa, Israel, China, and Sweden, with a couple of Americans also earning passing swipes, he focuses on world affairs, including the modern political history of several countries, cultural and racial issues, and the accidents of history which have the power to change the world. The craziness starts with the novel’s over-the-top opening line: “In some ways they were lucky, the latrine emptiers in South Africa’s largest shantytown. After all, they had both a job and a roof over their heads.” And for the next four hundred pages, the bold absurdity continues, spreading outward until it eventually absorbs the kings, presidents, and prime ministers of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Picaresque, in terms of the plot, which wanders around following the life of Nombeko from the age of thirteen to forty-seven, the novel wastes no time in making its points about personal and political responsibility, or as the author says, “If God does exist, he must have a good sense of humor.”

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