The arrival of a Karin Alvtegen is always a fine enough reason to set aside other books and indulge in something I know will keep me agog from cover to cover and Shadow was no exception.
It's some time since I'd read Shame and I was intrigued to go back and read my thoughts of June 13th 2007 as well as noting a comment from Andrea at Canongate about the publication of Shadow in February 2009. I see that this was also the moment I created my Literature in Translation shelf and it was good to read that because I'd been hunting high and low for Shame this week,so I'm delighted that I've reminded myself where it is. The translation shelf is still there and I love that particular book corner, it would now seem odd to remix these books in with the main.
The shadow in question hovers throughout the book, whether as the shadow of the past, the child walking in the shadow of the parent, that vicious cycle that past events can create for the present and one profession particular comes in for Karin Alvtegen's particularly astute brand of scrutiny. If you want to avoid one line of work that can be about pressing the self-destruct button and watching the carnage descend then whatever you do don't become a writer.
Noble prize-winning author Alex Ragnerfeldt lies in his nursing home bed, a victim of locked-in syndrome, paralysed but for the occasional and rather unpredictable use of one little finger, a great man reduced and imprisoned in a body that won't work but with a mind that will. Meanwhile it is Alex's son Jan-Erik who cuts a rather arrogant figure as he parades around the literary circuit to keep his father's name and work in the Swedish nation's literary consciousness.
But uppskakande and ohygglighet (that could be really wrong) there are skeleton's in cupboards and the desertion of a little boy on the steps of a fun fair carrying a note 'Take care of this child. Forgive me,' sets the ball rolling for them all to start rattling.
Except whose cupboard is rattling?
This is the joy of Karin Alvtegen's writing because you can never be sure until the final page and there will be plenty of little false trails along the way, but in the process expect to see the seamier side of a writer's life exposed with all its glamour and glory, lies and secrets, all the deceits and conceits and a book that will take you willingly to the final page to find out. These are interesting books to try and categorise, not quite crime though there is enough of it, not quite thrillers, not quite suspense but a wonderful mixture of elements of all three and I love them for that
One sentence of many that rang so true,
'A life without sorrow is a symphony without bass notes.'
Suddenly I realise I've opened a Nordic reading thread without meaning to because alongside I have The Dog by Kersten Ekman and am reminded that I opened and closed Blackwater many moons ago having decided the time wasn't quite right for a book about
'hideous murders...bodies stabbed so violently that the feathers from their sleeping bag scatter the ground...dark and quite unexpected conclusion...disturbing...'
Then I see that I've dated the arrival of the book as January 2006 which probably explains it. I know my limits in January.
The Dog meanwhile is I suspect one of those books to twang the strings of a dog-lover's heart and then settle them down again by the end, at least that's what I'm hoping or I shall wish I hadn't started that one in January either. If this dog ends up in a trap or worse a casserole, I won't be happy.
More Swedish reading now flashing at me from the Nordic shelf since I've browsed there.
The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg was so good I dashed off and bought the other three in the series so it might be time to open Book Two, Unto a Good Land.
Just exactly how many times have I started Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset and come unstuck with all the Nordic names?
Then again perhaps for me despite the allure of all that snow, the Nordic shelf is best visited in the bright,light, long endless days of summer.