Friday, 22 July 2011

The Library of Shadows

Title: The Library of Shadows

Author: Mikkel Birkegaard

Number of pages: 430

Started: 12 July 2011

Finished: 22 July 2011

Opening words:

Luca Campelli's wish to die surrounded by his beloved books came true late one night in October.

Of course this was one of those wished that was never formulated either in speech or thought, but people who had seen Luca in his antiquarian bookshop knew it had to be true. The little Italian moved among the stacks of books in Libri di Luca as if he were strolling in his own living room, and without hesitation he could direct his customers to precisely the stack or shelf where the book they were seeking was located. Luca’s love for literature became obvious after only a brief conversation with him, and it made no difference whether it was a question of a worn paperback or one of the rare first editions. This sort of knowledge bore witness to a long life with books, and Luca’s authority among the shelves made it difficult to imagine him outside the comforting atmosphere of muted devotion that suffused the antiquarian bookshop.

Plot summary:

Imagine that some people have the power to affect your thoughts and feelings when you read, or they read a book to you. They can seduce you with amazing stories, conjure up vividly imagined worlds, but also manipulate you into thinking exactly what they want you to.

When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. Jon has not seen his father for twenty years since the mysterious death of his mother.

After Luca's death is followed by an arson attempt on the shop, Jon is forced to explore his family's past. Unbeknown to Jon, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret. It is the meeting place of a society of booklovers and readers, who have maintained a tradition of immense power passed down from the days of the great library of ancient Alexandria. Now someone is trying to destroy them, and Jon finds himself in a fight for his life and those of his new friends.

What I thought:
I was intrigued by this plot of the book – people having the ability through the power of reading to influence and change people’s thoughts. The book on the whole was a good read, if perhaps a little let down by the ending. I thought it was quite an original idea for a plot and the story carefully unfolded, building suspense and leaving the reader guessing.

Interestingly, I actually read the book aloud to my partner, who also enjoyed it. Make of that what you will...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Travelling Light

Title: Travelling Light

Author: Tove Jansson

Number of pages: 202

Started: 9 July 2011

Finished: 15 July 2011

Opening words:

When we arrived and Jonny caught sight of the big cars parked outside Grandma’s building he said right away that he should have worn a dark suit.

“Don’t be silly sweetheart” I said. “Relax. Grandma isn’t like that. People pop in and out in corduroy trousers and all sorts of stuff. She likes bohemians.”

Plot summary:

This newly translated collection of stories brilliantly evokes the shifting scenes and restlessness of summer. A professor arrives in a beautiful Spanish village only to find that her host has left and she must cope with fractious neighbours alone; a holiday on a Finnish Island is thrown into disarray when a disconcerting young boy arrives; an artist returns to an old flat to discover that her life has been eerily usurped. Philosophical and profound, but with the deceptive lightness that is her hallmark, Travelling Light is guaranteed to surprise and transport.

What I thought:

This, like the title perhaps suggest, was a light read – but with a slightly dark undertone. It was made up on a series of short stories, each of which showed a different aspect of life. Be it meeting your partner’s grandma to a family taking a stranger’s child on holiday with them. It was a good mix of tales and a nice summer read.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Title: Leviathan

Author: Paul Auster

Number of pages: 245

Started: 5 July 2011

Finished: 8 July 2011

Opening words:

Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in northern Wisconsin. There were no witnesses, but it appears that he was sitting on the grass next to his parked car when the bomb he was building accidentally went off. According to the forensic reports that have just been published, the man was killed instantly. His body burst into dozens of small pieces, and fragments of his corpse were found as far as 50 feet away from the site of the explosion.

Plot summary:

The explosion that detonates the narrative of Paul Auster's remarkable novel also ends the life of its hero, Benjamin Sachs, and brings two FBI agents to the home of one of Sachs' oldest friends, the writer Peter Aaron. What follows is Aaron's story, an intricate, subtle and gripping investigation of another man's life in all its richness and complexity.

What I thought:

I am getting close to having read all of the Paul Auster books, so I am having to pace myself. This book had an intriguing start and slowly the back story unfolded throughout the book to explain why a man blew himself up.

The book was in Auster’s usual style, slightly quirky characters who have somehow distanced themselves from life the intertwining if people’s lives and people reflecting back on how things turned out the way they have. This was a good read and one I might revisit.

Monday, 4 July 2011

If on a Winter's Night a Traveller

Title: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

Author: Italo Calvino

Number of pages: 260

Started: 28 June 2011

Finished: 4 July 2011

Opening words:

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a Winter's Night a Traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice—they won't hear you otherwise—I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone.

Plot summary:

You go into a bookshop and buy If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. You like it. But alas there is a printer’s error in your copy. You take it back to the shop and get a replacement. But the replacement seems to be a totally different story. You try to track down the original book you were reading but end up with a different narrative again. This remarkable novel leads you through many different books including a detective adventure, a romance, a satire, an erotic story, a diary and a quest. But the real hero is you, the reader.

What I thought:

This is a book that you get to start over and over again and never actually get to the end of the story. The book again and again introduced a new book in the hope that this time is was indeed the elusive If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller. It had the advantage that if you didn’t like a particular start to a story another one would be along in a few minutes, but if you did, you never got to find out what happened.

To me this book was like reading Jose Saramago - but with punctuation.