Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Theatre director Kate Stanley receives a mysterious gift from her mentor, who later is found murdered. Kate follows the clues and is soon on the verge of discovering something extraordinary.

Being an interesting story in general, the book still runs the risk of loosing the reader's attention. There's a lack of generous descriptions and first hand perspective. Kate's feelings isn't always clear. She often seems unaware, or even ignorant, of the danger she is in - which only serves as a diminishing factor of the thrilling element. When the reader gets to enter her mind, it's during the constant Shakespeare reasoning that mark the novel. The characters are overshadowed by academic speculations, and the book gives the impression of a report of arguing and reasoning about a missing play and Shakespeare's true identity, rather than a thrilling, fictional story with characters. The fact that it resembles a thesis about the aristocracy of the 1500's is fascinating at first, but becomes somewhat tiresome, and might entertain already well-read researches and professors rather than a common reader interested in history and literature.

The element that destroys the novel is also what saves it, in a way - Carrell's genuine interest in Shakespeare and the extensive research, serving as the base of the novel, naturally mixed with her own theories and fiction. The material could have made a great story, if not being too dominant and excluding. Even though it's taken too far, it's interesting to enter a world swarming with well-read academics able to quote every line of Shakespeare.


A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

The story, published in 1930, takes place in Faulkner's fictional town Jefferson, Mississippi, and begins with the main character Emily Grierson's funeral, and flashbacks of her life - narrated by neighbors that never got to know her. 

Emily is a member of the Southern aristocracy. After the Civil War, the family continues to live as before, ignoring the hardship and the fact that the house is falling apart. Emily has a certain way of behaving and turns down proposals because of the suitors' low status. At least, that's what the neighbors' think. 

When Emily's father dies, she refuses to realize it. Then, to the neighbors disbelief, she meets Homer Barron, a simple man from the north - the opposite of her highborn status. A while later, Barron disappears. 

There's a dense darkness of despair consuming the story. Faulkner's prose is rich, but he doesn't serve everything without demanding something from the reader. Instead, he leaves interesting gaps for the reader to fill in. Hence, the endless possibilities of interpretations and associations, two of which might be basic themes as loneliness and the reluctance to change.


Skådespelerskan by Anne Charlotte Leffler

When Helge Stålberg presents his future wife, Ester Larsson, to his family, she is doomed from the beginning. She is out-spoken and coquettish, immediately drawing attention to herself. And, worse, she's an actress. She wants to fit into the family badly, and is prepared to perform, but her role as the ”woman” she thinks Helge wants her to be, fails considerably, and the real Ester shines through. 

The play was published in 1873, in a time when women were considered suitable for household duties and not public inspection. While Ester preformed, and was seen and admired by the audience, middle-class women hardly went ouside their homes without an escort, in that way avoiding to be viewed as every man's property. Ester wasn't modest and pleasant, she was the center of attention and thereby trespassing the boundaries of female conventions. She became the topic of conversation, and the men's amusement and object of admiration, something that aggravated the women in the family, who was suddenly forced to consider their own feminity and sexuality. The theme is the middle-class woman, used to supress her desires, meeting with the actress, used to play upon her sexuality and men's weekness for it. They are both, in different ways, identities produced by the norms and conventions of society, that still exists today.

The play was controversial for its time, considering the main theme of female identity, imprisonment and inferiority, as well as the married woman's silent war for independence. In many ways it resembles authors like Strindberg and Ibsen, when it comes to Leffler's direct approached and the topic of freedom from prejudice.

There's an interesting parallel between the author and her main character, Ester Larsson. Leffler's husband wasn't pleased with her writing ambitions, which didn't fit into the womanly qualitites, and she wrote in secret, under a pseudonym. Eventually, her plays were successful, and she began to write under her own name, despite her husband's objections. Leffler divorced him, moved to Italy and married a ten years younger man, who was her equal and colleague, encouraging her in the same way as her parents had done. Finally, as strongly as her character Ester Larsson, she had freed herself from the conventions of society. Furthermore, her plays became some of the most performed in the nordic countries in the 1880's.


Snow-White and Rose-Red by the Grimm brothers

This is one of the stories in the collection "Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales". It is not to be confused with the well known fairytale "Snow White". This Snow-White lives with her mother and sister in the forest and is visited, one night, by a bear. The story also includes a dwarf, a treasure, and, of course, the royal element which is always present in a fairytale. All these components should be enough to make something amazing, like so many of the Grimm's fairytales, but somehow, it didn't live up to the expectations. There was no real message that usually is a part of such a story. Unfortunately, it seems only to preserve the folklore.

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

When professor Challenger claims he has discovered a plateau in the Amazon, upon which there are extinct animals from the jurassic era, he is met with critique and ridicule. So he decides to prove his point and explore the area again, this time with another scientist, Professor Summerlee, an adventurer, Lord John Roxton, and a reporter with an urge to do something heroic to win his beloved Gladys, Edward Malone, the narrator of the story. When finally managing to find a way to get onto the plateau, the team is baffled beyond belief.

This is a real, old-fashioned adventure, with many interesting and thrilling moments and encounters with history. Doyle's characters complete each other well and especially Challenger is a real blast. Unfortunately, from a feminist perspective, there is a major flaw. There are only men exploring and discovering, and the only woman in the story, not even one of the adventurers, is a greedy one without a sensible bone in her body. Another disturbing flaw is the racist descriptions of the people serving as guides for the party. But, after having been considerably irritated by these things, one should remind oneself to put the context in relation to it's time, and the people's ignorance of these matters back then. The views of this book are not uncommon among literature of the early 1900's.

How would a world function without interference of human beings? How would an isolated, prospering world, without experiences of human beings, react to four persons intruding on them?They were the intruders, and not even the top of the food-chain. These are topics examined in an interesting way by the author of the Sherlock Holmes series, Arthur Conan Doyle, as early as the year 1912, and there is probably a reason why Michael Crichton named his "Jurassic Park" - sequel "The Lost World".


Ten-Thirty on a Summer Night by Marguerite Duras

A couple, Maria and Pierre, their daughter and a friend are heading for Madrid, but a storm forces them to stop by in a small town. As soon as they arrive, they're told that a murderer named Rodrigo Paestra - a man that has killed his wife and her lover - is hiding somewhere nearby and the police are looking for him. Maria can't get the man out of her mind, and she develops a kind of contempt for the wife's lover, Toni Perez, while she's not judging Paestra. Eventually, as her own life is shattering before her eyes when her husband and friend find each other, she, in her drunken state, tries to understand and survive, through the story of the murderer. She seems to find a way to breathe through his revenge, and finally decides to help him.

The parallels between Maria and Paestra are obvious. Her determination to help him is an interesting way of describing her view of her own life. Similar experiences can awake a great deal of sympathy for someone you normally wouldn't understand. The concept is interesting, and the novel has received praise of immense proportions. It's subtle and reduced to the essence of the theme of smothering emotions of tearing sorrow, guilt, abandonment and despair. It also deals with the feeling of entrapment and the relative freedom - or imprisonment - of revenge. The things going on beneath the surface resemble Kafka's writing somewhat, but, still, something is missing to awake the outmost impression.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

In the middle of the World War II, a little girl is coming to a small town outside Munish. With a dark past, and bad dreams haunting her sleep, she slowly begins her new life with her new family. Her foster father, Hans Hubermann, shows her the exciting world of words that will save her on many levels. Already having stolen a book from a gravedigger at her brother's funeral, she has many thefts lingering before her, hence many literary experiences. Her big eye-opener to the souls of her new parents, however, occurs the moment a tired man with twigs of hair and swampy eyes turns up at the front door, seeking shelter. During the worst pursuit of jews, there were people risking their lives to make a difference.

Markus Zusak's parents grew up in Germany during World War II and have shared their stories with him, and thus, some parts of the book are based on true events. "The Book Thief" is long, heavy, depressing, heart-piercing, and narrated by Death. It shows the darkest of places, but at the same time moments of light and happiness shine through. Liesel's strong bonds to Hans Hubermann and Max, hidden in the basement, are made of the most beautiful, selfless, sacrificing love, which is the last thing to leave one's life, whatever the circumstances.

”The Book Thief” is also a story about the power of words, how they can be the cause of salvation and destruction.

”I have hated the words and
I have loved them,
and I hope I have made them right”
-Liesel Meminger


Kallocain by Karin Boye

The book is set in a future, dystopian, totalitarian world state, after a World War. The government surveillance, with eyes and ears, reaches everywhere. Even the maids are bound to report every week about the family at which they work. The main protagonist, Leo Kall, is a dutiful citizen, accepting the rules of the society. He even invents a truth serum, Kallocain, to increase the government's control over the people, making the world state the owner of not only the peoples' identities, but also their souls, because the truth serum reveals their inner, most intimate emotions.

Karin Boye wrote the book during the second World War, just months before committing suicide. The oppression and government abuse are choking and frightening, as well as believable. Since there was a fear among the Swedish people of a German invasion, the theme of the book has been connected to the Third Reich. But, having been a socialist, Boye, after visiting the Soviet union, had began to crumble in her political conviction, especially when it came to the restricted individual freedom of the people. As much as the world state resembles a nazi society, it also resembles a communist era. The people live in small apartments, all identical, and they call each other "fellow soldier", not so unlike the Soviet's ”kamrat” - comrade. There are no economic class divisions, and there is a kind of human equality, but only in the indiscriminating way that noone has a value. A human life is worth nothing more than being a cog in the machine. Individualism is strictly forbidden and seen as a crime and threat to the nation, as the biggest purpose is to serve the world state. Kall is a scientist and contributes to the state through his Kallocain experiments on people from a voluntary service where they sacrificing themselves for ”the greater good”, a unit one can enter but never leave.

Since individualism is forbidden and private emotions are viewed as selfish, dangerous thoughts, the society is built upon mistrust and suspicion - a foundation necessary for the existence of the world state. For every private gathering, witnesses are needed to be able to prove one's innocence if faced with an accusation. There is no term as ”innocent until proven guilty”.

There is a biblical theme in the book. The mysterious myth about the hero Reor that didn't care about witnesses and protection, but simply trusted his fellow citizens, and thereby reached a freedom of mind, something he had to pay for. Parallels can be drawn to Jesus, and his role of sacrifice. The people believing in this myth and trustful way of behavior, were seen as strange and dangerous. Like a religion, there were no certificate to be a member, no head of the organization, not even an organization. Not being able to control such a people, the ruthless state had to defend itself.

When no one can be trusted, the only way to feel safe is power, but power is only an illusion, since it doesn't take away the small voice inside one's soul. Kall received the kind of power he thought he needed, through his invention. It's interesting how far a person is prepared to go to defend his structured, safety-imagined every-day life. The clear-eyed, openminded character Rissen served as Kall's suppressed conscience, which explains Kall's split feelings towards him, mostly fear and loathing due to the dangerous risk of rebellious thoughts in his mind, which could jeopardize his safety, especially with Kallocain in production.

Kallocain is a unique Swedish novel, about ten years ahead of George Orwell's "1984" and Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451". More than seventy years old, it's still of importance, considering the present discussions of the Swedish FRA-surveillance, and even on an international scale, considering Wikileaks and the information revealed by Julian Assange. Furthermore, it shows how easy people, and eventually a whole society, can be controlled by fear and mistrust. It also awakes the important prospect that a society consists of people, like an organism consists of cells. Every cell is needed, and every man can make a difference. He has to decide for himself who he wants to be, and dare to fight for it.


The 5th wave by Rick Yancey

Cassie lives in a tent in the forest. She is alone and every person she meets are a potential threat. Since the apocalypse, there's no telling who is human and who is one of "the others". After being alone for a long while, she meets Evan Walker, and even though she has promised herself to trust no one, she craves the company of another person.

Unfortunately, the surprises in the book were rather predictable and it was a long time of waiting for the characters to catch up. Then, it finally got interesting. However, the main character Cassie came off as a little flat. At first, she seems to be a really strong type, but when she needs to keep her head clear the most, in the middle of a life threatening situation, or in a situation where something really bad has happened and she should be lucky to be alive, she thinks such strange and completely inappropriate thoughts. Her vain and shallow moments with these irritating clichés popping up in her head, might indicate that it's sometimes difficult for a male author to write a believable female character properly. It's much easier to understand Evan Walker and Ben Parish, but Cassie's constant nagging about irrelevant details about her looks or anyone else's, is irritating and might diminish some readers' sympathy for her. It doesn't matter that she is very young. Young doesn't mean stupid. "The Hunger Games"' star Katniss Everdeen proves that. But, after a while, Cassie is more convincing and perhaps the reason she was a little stupid can be explained by the long time of loneliness, and that Evan became her whole world.

In the whole, as usual, the apocalyptic concept is interesting, but not at all in the same league as apocalyptic novels, such as Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", or H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds". This being a young adult novel, a comparison is rather unfair, but it's almost equally far from "The Hunger Games". But, anyway, it's entertaining in an eventful kind of way, and fit into the sometimes cliché world of the young adult category.