Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Books - Book Review - Grace - Linn Ullman
I sometimes wish characters would meet to see what would happen.
If Johan from Grace met Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, they would be insulting each other in a few minutes, and maybe Johan would ever be tempted to fight with her.
Johan is the grumpiest, least joyful man in Norway. He didn't like his first wife, the son that he had with this wife and really had no friends, except his second wife.
A doctor finds that Johan has a fatal disease, and he does his best to fight it off and thinks a lot.
He remembers the highlight of his journalist's career: when he wrote a series of articles about William Faulkner. "Johan compared American literature with Norwegian literature and society..Each article took up two whole pages and was thoughtfully illustrated with old photographs. Never had Johan received so much attention from those whose good opinions he valued. . However, that was a long time ago." No one ever invited him to the University of Oslo to talk about Faulkner.
As he progresses with his illness, his memories jump to different time periods. He recalls hunting for wild strawberries among the moss and twigs of Norway with his mother, especially the day that he found them, instead of her. She would signal to Johan to be quiet. "As if the strawberries would turn to clover and moss before your very eyes at the first loud sound or sudden movement. You hardly dared blink."
What a well written passage about looking for strawberries in a northern clime. Where I live, it's warm and in fields for strawberry picking. I would never find them in moss patches!
The book is not a happy book, but I am amazed that such a young author has a grasp of what it is to be a dying person. It's short, but you gain enough to make the reading meaningful.
Labels: Linn Ullman