A Bridge to the Stars

Henning Mankell’s A Bridge to the Stars is about a young boy discovering the world around him. Joel Gustafson’s mother left him when he was much younger and this defined much of who he was at the age of 11. Joel’s father worked long hours at the lumber mill, but shared romantic stories of his former self as a sailor. Its hard to say if these stories are what provoked his nighttime adventures, or if it really was the dog wandering by at night.

Joel is a lonely kid who carried around his sense of abandonment and fear that his dad will leave him too. In gaining his own adventure stories while traversing his small, cold town in the middle of the night, Joel gains an insight into his neighbors that everyone around him misses. He develops friendships that change who he is at his core.

I read this novel almost 2 months ago now so many of the details of the story have escaped my memory, but the beauty and whimsy of the characters and writing has stayed with me. This book was written for a younger audience but it screams of a great writer. The words and story are beautifully told, which I was not expecting from the author of the Inspector Wallander series. This is such a departure from the crime novels where Mankell’s starkness of character and scene drive the depth of those stories. I feel silly writing this paragraph, but it really was the writing that carried me away.

I loved this novel so much, that I’ll probably end up reading it again. Its a quick, easy read, and the story really carries the reader the whole time.

Read July 2014

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The South

Colm Toibin’s The South is about Katherine Proctor, a woman who is coming into her own in the 1950’s. She abandons her husband and child after she learns the type of man she married and thinks her son is just a miniature version of him. She leaves Ireland and heads to Barcelona to begin her new life. She came from a wealthy Protestant family and her mother supported her while she led an artistic life in the Pyrenees with her Spanish revolutionary lover

Throughout the story Katherine isolates herself from everyone, even when she’s in a relationship or with friends. She always keeps her distance and surrounds herself with men who do the same thing. Toibin writes her as such a sad and discontent character. She has immense control over her life, especially for the time period, but doesn’t take control of her own happiness.

Toibin is economical with words, but doesn’t hold back with emotions. There is so much depth to the emotions, specifically with Katherine and her children, that I needed to take a break while reading this book to prevent the sadness from overwhelming me. Maybe its because I have children, or the style allows the reader to put their own emotions onto the characters since nothing is spelled out, but the emotions that ran beyond the words was so powerful.

This book was a great story about a woman trying to live her life freely but being stifled by her isolation. Colm Toibin is a great writer and this is a wonderful example.

Read May 2013