Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I mused on my mistake

Last week I read The Murder of Halland, by Pia Juul.

I saw "lust" where the text said "last." I tried to continue reading, but couldn't. I mused on my mistake, marvelling at the ability to read in the first place. How did the eyes work? And the brain? Just as I wobbled on a bike if I allowed myself to think about balance, my reading became shaky if I wondered about the mechanism of reading. I loved reading and had always thought of it as a refuge. I even read the labels on bottles, if only to keep myself occupied on trains or in restaurants. I read in bed at night. If I lay awake for more than two minutes after switching off the light, I switched it on again to avoid lapsing into thought. To avoid thinking.

And so I read this book, on my commute, in bed at night, without ever caring what it was about. To keep myself occupied. I kept myself occupied a little longer as I walked from the metro to my office, wondering, what is this book about? it's certainly not a muder mystery, and I'm not even sure it's a mystery of any order. It's about, well, just her, maybe her writer's temperament, maybe that annoying way of focusing in or out just when it doesn't quite suit the reader. Most people say it's about grieving, but I've seen many people grieve, and if that's what this book is about, it's not entirely genuine, or at least complete.

For the longest time, and pretty much from the start, I thought it was about her relationship with her estranged daughter, the one she'd essentially abandoned when she left her husband for another man. It seems to me to be the emotional centre of this book anyway.

Mostly it was just boring.

Several of the reviews listed below found this book rich in emotion and character, and even worthy of a second reading. I don't get it. And I doubt I'll be reading it again to try to figure it out.

The review that originally turned me on to this book, which I'm sadly unable to track down now, was, ironically, a fairly negative one. I gambled my tastes against that reviewer's and lost.

I'm all for "literary" and "genre-subverting" and "ambiguity" — even in my murder mysteries — but I'm not convinced this book succeeds on any of these counts (and it's not a murder mystery).

Reviews
Andrew Blackman
Book Snob
Eurocrime
Necessary Fiction
Reading Matters
Tony's Reading List
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