A Game of Thrones

Game of thronesGeorge R.R. Martin

First Sentence:     “We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.

Back of the book:

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

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Professor Andersen’s Night

Dag Solstad

First Sentence:      It was Christmas Eve and Professor Andersen had a Christmas tree in the living room.

This book tells the tale of Professor Andersen and how he reacts after viewing a murder from his apartment window. It begins on Christmas eve when the fifty-five year old professor of literature is alone and enjoying his solitude. Then, on looking across the street he sees a young woman being killed. And yet he does nothing about it. He doesn’t intervene, he doesn’t report it, and in the days and weeks that follow he doesn’t even tell his closest friends. This book makes us ask ourselves how we would respond to such an event. It is like a literary Rear Window . And yes, it is very literary. It asks us to think about our consciousness and identity:

‘You do have eight great-grandparents,’ said Professor Andersen with emphasis on the words. ‘And there is probably barely a hundred years between the birth of the eldest of them and you. And already they’re no longer part of your consciousness.’

…and even gives opinions on literature itself…

Literature is not going to survive, not in the way we think of it. Its survival is just a matter of form, and that is no longer enough. All enthusiasm lies in the present, and in our day and age nothing can outdo the ability of commercialism to arouse enthusiasm and stir the hearts of the masses, and that is the spirit of the present time.

For all this literary posturing however, there is a decent story here and some very enjoyable writing. It may not be the best Norwegian novel I’ve read recently, that dubious honour still goes to The Faster I Walk The Smaller I Am, but this is an enjoyable read nonetheless. It even contains a few gems like this:

The ravages of time gnaw at even the most outstanding intellectual accomplishments and destroy them, making them pale and faded.

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Hotel Iris

Yoko Ogawa

First Sentence:   He first came to the Iris one day just before the beginning of the summer season.

A delicate little novel this centering on Mari, a seventeen-year old girl who works at the front desk in the family run Hotel Iris. One night there is a disturbance in one of the rooms between a prostitute and a mysterious man. It is this man’s voice that initially draws Mari in to what will become a somewhat shocking relationship. This book is endlessly readable, full of clean prose, but at its heart is a very dark tale. It is this darkness that I found a little off-putting, but that is not to say this is a bad book. I just preferred the innocence of the other Ogawa book I read (The Housekeeper + The Professor). There is still much to enjoy here, and aside from the rather dubious love shared by Mari and the translator, I can see plenty to admire. It is at times a disturbing, and yet consistently charming read.

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