[Book Talk] Doppler (Doppler, #1) by Erlend Loe

dopplerBook Details:

Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Read: January 2017

Synopsis:

A bestseller in Scandinavia — Doppler is the enchanting, subversive, and very unusual story about one man and his moose.
This beguiling modern fable tells the story of a man who, after the death of his father, abandons his home, his family, his career, and the trappings of civilization for a makeshift tent in the woods where he adopts a moose-calf named Bongo. Or is it Bongo who adopts him? Together they devote themselves, with some surprising results, to the art of carefree living.
Hilarious, touching, and poignant in equal measure — you will read it with tear-stained cheeks and sore sides — Doppler is also a deeply subversive novel and a strong criticism of modern consumer culture.

My Thoughts

After reading his book Naive. Super, I’ve come to never expect the normal from Norway author, Erlend Loe. I can’t even remember what brought me to buy this book a few years ago – I think I had been looking for my own copy of the first book of his I had read since I had mailed my original copy to a friend since I loved it so much, and I came across this little book, featuring a moose on the cover, and I just had to have it.

Erlend’s books are … different. He has this amazing humour that seriously had me laughing out loud for the whole book, but the story was also sad. The main character is coming to terms with his father’s death – and maybe going through a bit of a midlife crisis at the same time. As the story goes on, he meets other characters who are going through the same thing – one is also mourning the loss of his dad, another is going through a midlife crisis, trying to make a living for his family. They all befriend one another in their own quirky way and I think they all helped one another deal with their issues. Emphasis on quirky. Seriously, parts of this book are ridiculous and I have to wonder how much truth there is to it, how much of it actually happened in this fictional world – like the moose playing cards? That’s got to be talking about something else that I just didn’t understand.

I love the people in Erlend’s books – they’re not your normal characters and even the ones who seem slightly more normal don’t have the same reactions a normal person might have in real life. So many things happened that had me saying, ‘Huh?’ but in the same way I’d shake my head and just say, ‘Oh, Erlend, you cheeky bastard.’ How can you not love this book? It’s quaint, it’s poignant, it’s sad, it’s relatable. I loved about 95% of it but did not get the ending. Actually, that’s not true, I wished it hadn’t been part of a series, something I didn’t know when I bought it. I won’t be continuing with the series because, honestly, I thought the book would end differently. But then again, it’s Erlend, and I don’t think he does anything normal.

At any rate, this was a fun and very quick read (I started it when I went to bed one night and finished it in the wee hours of the morning before the kids got up), but I wouldn’t recommend reading it until you’ve read Naive. Super, which is amazing.

[Book Talk] The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

the-wonderBook Details:

Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Read: January 2017

Synopsis:

An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.

My Thoughts

This was an interesting book – and a great pick for my first read of the year. The only other book I’ve read by Emma Donoghue was Room and while I wouldn’t say this one was quite as intense, it definitely had a great mystery surrounding it. You would think that a book about a girl who stops eating couldn’t be a book at all and I really wondered how long the whole idea could be carried, but as the story went on I was completely fascinated and absorbed in it that I couldn’t put it down. I had so many theories as to why this girl, Anna, decides to stop eating and none of them were correct, but I love that this book had me thinking so much as I was reading it.

Even though I was fascinated by the whole story, it did move quite slowly and some might be perturbed by the insistency of the nurse, Lib, that Anna must be getting food from somewhere. After a while even I wanted to say, okay, I get it but do you need to say it all the time? But putting myself in her shoes, I probably would do the same thing. There were so many twists and turns throughout the latter half of the story that even I didn’t see them coming; Emma Donoghue really knows how to write something that will have you shrieking out “what?!?” while you’re reading.

This was a great mystery and so interesting to read. It kept me thinking about it long after I finished and, as usual, made me so happy to have an author like Emma Donoghue in Canada!

[Book Talk] The Vegetarian by Han Kang

the-vegetarianBook Details:

Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Read: January 2017

Synopsis:

Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more ‘plant-like’ existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision is a shocking act of subversion. Her passive rebellion manifests in ever more bizarre and frightening forms, leading her bland husband to self-justified acts of sexual sadism. His cruelties drive her towards attempted suicide and hospitalisation. She unknowingly captivates her sister’s husband, a video artist. She becomes the focus of his increasingly erotic and unhinged artworks, while spiralling further and further into her fantasies of abandoning her fleshly prison and becoming – impossibly, ecstatically – a tree.

Fraught, disturbing and beautiful, The Vegetarian is a novel about modern day South Korea, but also a novel about shame, desire and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

My Thoughts

As I sit to gather my thoughts on this book, The Vegetarian, I am still really unsure of what I actually did think of it. I read the whole thing with my brow furrowed since it was equally dark and fascinating and I just couldn’t tear myself away from it.

It was so interesting that this entire book was about Yeong-hye, but there were very few passages from her point of view. She goes vegetarian because of a dream and we get bits and pieces of this dream, but never a full account of what it was. I know a book about becoming vegetarian seems a little normal (since people do this all the time), but this was far from normal since doing something like this in South Korea just seems … wrong. It was intense, in the first part, to see how Yeong-hye’s decision unraveled everyone.

I liked how the book was laid out, in three parts, with the first part told by Yeong-hye’s husband, the second by her brother-in-law, and the last by her sister. It showed that everyone has something they’re hiding, some kind of wall that everyone feels they’re up against, and it really was an interesting account of human nature. Let’s just say I’ll never look at a tree the same way again.

I’d be interested to try more of Han Kang’s books, but probably not anytime soon. I found the subject matter to be quite disturbing, vulgar, and just way too intense. It’s not that I’m against books like that, but I can only take them in small doses. I can definitely see how this book was the recipient of the Man Booker Prize; there were plenty of hidden depths to it and in such a tiny volume, the entire story packed quite a punch.