The woman in Cabin 10

The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing at my face.

The narrator being unreliable (or do I only think she’s unreliable?) definitely set my teeth on edge, almost as much as the paranoia slowly building.

Main character and narrator Laura (Lo) has to experience a luxurious cruise for work. If only the tight spaces didn’t remind her so much of the very recent home burglary she experienced.

Instead of work, the luxuries and familiar faces present to distract her, Laura is sure that one night she witnesses a murder. Her frazzled state never ceases, only grows, because there was no woman in that cabin, and is it true that she’s been recently traumatised?

The roll up and conclusion aren’t completely satisfying, but the way towards it is creepy enough for a few hours thrilling entertainment.

The woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware, Harvill Secker 2016

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The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe

The first word spoken by the Indian man Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod upon his arrival in France was, oddly enough, a Swedish word.

Pretty – no, incredibly exhausting story about an absurd idea turning even more absurd while weaving in a story about illegal immigrants and their plight. Whenever the story moves towards genuine, sweet, some learned lessons, the author destroys the moment with another awful Indians-have-weird-names joke.

Fakir Ajatashatru wants a bed of nails from the IKEA (because they sell such a thing there?) and talks his village into getting him a ticket to Paris. Woefully unprepared, unknowing and naive, he quickly pisses off a gypsy (isn’t that supposed to be Traveler or Roma?), becomes an illegal alien in several countries and travels through Europe. He meets good women that for some reason want to help him and ends up in situations suitable for Hollywood slapstick movies.

The library put this in the comedy sector, the title amused me. Sadly, the story just left me with a feeling of disappointment and slight disgust.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe, Romain Puértolas, Harvill Secker 2014

The Shadow Girls

It was one of the last days of the twentieth century.

Immigrants aren’t less human than those that have been living in one country or even city for the past hundred years. Somehow that’s still hard to remember. The reader, led by the hand of main character Jesper Humlin, is taught the tough way.

Jesper isn’t a character to be proud of. He’s a slightly successful poet who thinks the world’s against him and will only do something for his own gain. Meeting three (illegal) immigrants at first makes him think about what an amazing inspiration they’ll be, until he realizes that they’re human and have their own stories, not for him to take.

And like that he steps aside to give room to those stories, to show that sales numbers aren’t that important when you traveled through the entirety of Europe in hope of a better life. It’s brutal, but never sentimental. Because these girls deserve more than just sympathy and a pat on the head, they deserve their humanity.

The Shadow Girls, Henning Mankell, Harvill Secker 2012

Wizard of the Crow

There were many theories about the strange illness of the second Ruler of the Free Republic of Aburiria, but the most frequent on people’s lips were five.

With over 700 pages and a lot of ugly truths about Africa and (Western) society sometimes I lot to work through, but definitely not a book to give up on easily. Because besides the truths and the amount of pages there is humor, a gritty yet warm world-building, satire, lessons about the African continent and some small history lessons.

The Wizard of the Crow has several story lines going on at the same time, but the main ones center on the title character, the woman he meets and the dictator of the country they live in. Turning to magic, having the right and wrong people believe in it, coups, rebels, an insane leader with a God-syndrome and a super religious couple are the cherries on the milkshake.

This book is a – sometimes awkward/uncomfortable – encyclopedia to underline the fact that people outside your culture aren’t less human, weirder or scarier. In the end and beginning of all things, they’re human beings that try to get by in their daily life, in any which way. Even in the fictional country of Aburiria.

The Wizard of the Crow, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Harvill Secker 2006

The Elephant Keeper’s Children

I have found a door out of the prison.

Darn, a lot of things happen here. It’s a bit exhausting, really. There were times when I just didn’t want to open this book because you have to work hard to follow every plot line.

The one big plot line is about how three Danish siblings, living on an island, have to go through the disappearance of their parents. For the second time. But this time the police is on them right away, several religious leaders show an interest, the authorities try to split the siblings up and because the youngest two are absolute geniuses, they right away know that something’s wrong. Adventures follow.

Two things that I didn’t like about this story: the two youngest characters being absolute geniuses. They have very accurate insights, always have ideas to get out of tight spots, fool every adult and are just in time to save the day several times. Second is that this insight means that with every action, protagonist Peter falls back on an anecdote, a “feeling”, something “deep”. It makes the story incredibly cluttered.

And yet all those details, side plot lines and rubble create a smorgasbord that might not be that accessible, but certainly are entertaining. It’s a decision the reader has to make: work a bit harder to understand or leave this whirlwind of information, detail and silliness on the road’s side.

The Elephant Keeper’s Children, Peter Høeg, Harvill Secker 2012