Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

July 28

Comments: 5

Review: Broken by Karin Fossum

by Ann-Katrina

Broken Cover

Title: Broken
Author: Karin Fossum
ISBN: 978-0-1510-1366-1
Story Length: 272 pages
Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

Back Cover of Broken

A woman wakes up in the middle of the night. A strange man is in her bedroom. She lies there in silence, paralyzed with fear.The woman is an author and the man one of her characters, one in a long line that waits in her driveway for the time when she’ll tell their stories. He is so desperate that he has resorted to breaking into her house and demanding that she begin.

He, the author decides, is named Alvar Eide, forty-two years old, single,works in a gallery. He lives a quiet, orderly life and likes it that way—no demands, no unpleasantness. Until one icy winter day when a young drug addict, skinny and fragile, walks into the gallery. Alvar gives her a cup of coffee to warm her up. And then one day she appears on his doorstep.

Three Quick Points About Broken

  • Point 1: Where’s the mystery? A quarter of the way through, I realized this wasn’t a traditional whodunit mystery—it wasn’t a traditional mystery in any sense.
  • Point 2: It’s about characters under a microscope. Flawed but hauntingly natural characters crafted with aplomb.
  • Point 3: Smooth prose and pacing, for a translation. Lost in translation isn’t a cliché for nothing, but if anything was lost in this translation, I didn’t miss it. Continue reading »

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July 5

Comments: 2

Memorable Scenes Monday (2): Broken by Karin Fossum

by Ann-Katrina

Every so often I come across a scene that is so potent that it lingers long after I’ve finished reading it. That’s where the idea for this feature came from. Each Monday I intend to share with you a memorable scene from one (or more) of my reads.

If you like the idea I invite you to join me in sharing a memorable scene on your blog and link to it in a comment or just share the scene in the comment itself. (Please remember to include the book’s title and author so our wishlists and TBR stacks can grow. Also, if your scene is a spoiler, please clearly mark it as one.)

Broken This week’s scene comes from Broken by Karin Fossum, a unique thriller/mystery novel translated to English from its original Norwegian.

I am sitting in front of the computer. My fingers skate quickly across the keyboard. There are times it becomes flexible like a ribbon in my hands and I can bend and twist the language any way I please. Alvar comes up behind me, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.

“Are you really going to burden me with your sleeping problems and anxiety?” I turn around and give him a somewhat patronizing look.

“Everyone struggles with anxiety,” I say. “Can you feel how it eats away at you? In here, behind your ribs?” I tap my chest with my finger. “A cowardly rat sits in here gnawing its way through your ribs. It hurts.”

“But I’m a decent man,” he says. “I always keep my affairs in order.”

I turn off the computer, then turn around in my chair and look at him again. “Yes, that’s true. At the same time, you’re all alone. It’s dangerous to go through life without someone you can lean on. In certain circumstances it might well prove to be extremely dangerous for you.”

“In certain circumstances,” he echoes, “that you are about to put me in?”

I get up from my desk and go to my armchair, sit down, and light up a cigarette.

“What will be will be,” I say to him over my shoulder. He follows me. He stands with his hands folded. It is gray outside the windows. Heavy and wet, no hint of wind or movement.

“That rat,” I continue, “that gnaws at us all, it never feels satisfied. We constantly seek relief in every way possible. And on rare occasions it allows us a brief respite. Do you know what it’s like when everything suddenly falls into place, when that feeling floods your body? It’s like taking off from a great height. We float through the air and everything around us is warm. For a few brief seconds we think how great life can be. You’ll have such moments too, I promise you.”

He sits down on the sofa, on the edge as usual.

“Are people supposed to settle for a few brief moments of happiness?” he asks, dismayed.

“That’s a good question. It’s up to each and every one of us to decide. The majority spend most of their day looking for some kind of relief. A cigarette, a bottle of red wine. A Cipralex, going for a run. I won’t deprive you of sleep, Alvar, I promise you. But you have come to my house. I have seen you close up, and some events are inevitable. At this point in the story I’m no longer free; there is a clear structure and I have to work within it.”

-pg 55-6 (from the ARC)

Let me back up a little bit and mention that this is a book within a book. The author sees a line of people outside her door, each of them waiting to have their story told.

One evening, the author is awoken by one of those characters who pays her a visit and begs her to write his story because he’s worried she’ll die before she gets a chance to. However, he’s cut in front of another young woman holding a possibly-dead baby. Despite this, the author is somehow engaged by him and decides to start writing his story. During the process, like whenever she takes a break to eat or sleep or write letters to people, he pops in to chat her up about the progress of his story.

Frankly, that entire premise is the reason I decided to read this book. It sounded so fascinating that I couldn’t pass it up and so far, I’m not disappointed. This is more of a character study than a typical thriller/mystery, but I enjoy that. It’s pace is leisurely, but not slow and a few of the passages so far has made me stop to think…about life in general and writing in particular.

The book is scheduled for publication on August 1st, 2010, but it’s available for pre-order on Amazon.

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