Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The main character, Margaret Lea, amateur biographer and daughter of the owner of an antiquarian book shop, receives a request from a famous author, Vida Winter. The author is ill and wants Margaret to write her biography, which is confusing considering Winter's habit of fabricating her life story during interviews with journalists. Naturally, Margaret wonders why she would tell the truth this time. What is the purpose? Why is she chosen? 

Winter tells a fascinating but gruesome, sometimes even repulsive, story about her family in the mansion Angelfield. Winter wants to tell the story in her own way, leaving clues for Margaret to uncover while waiting for the story to unfold. What happened? How is everything connected? And who is Vida Winter?

Diane Setterfield writes in a mesmerizing way. The prose is wonderfully rich and colorful, throwing the reader into a world of melancholy and darkness. There are some parts that feel a little unnecessary, but nevertheless Setterfield is vague at the right moments, creating an atmosphere of suspense, where some questions are never answered and up to the reader to interpret.

This is a book for bibliophiles. The author's love for literature is shining through, and there are many similarities to Victorian literature. There are plenty of gothic elements and references to novels such as ”Jane Eyre” and ”Wuthering heights”. The book is a sort of tribute to gothic fiction. All the factors are present – old mansions and ruins, mysteries and hidden secrets, the supernational elements, the barren landscape, the thick mist and the melancholy. But most of all, these surrounding factors serve as a way of showing what's inside the characters. Their search for identity. Furthermore, there are considerably darker subjects emerging eventually and the ending is very sad.

"The Thirteenth Tale" is a rare piece of work that honors literature from a wonderful era, with an elaborated story, written in a mesmerizing way with well developed characters that haunt the reader a long time after reading it.


Salome by Oscar Wilde

The classic, biblical tale has been portrayed many times, in different ways. Oscar Wilde is just one among many authors that saw the potential in the tragedy and made the story his own, as a play. The main story about the tetrarch Herod's daughter that gets John the Baptist's head in exchange for dancing, is the same. But details are different. Historically, Salome was a more passive character, not well defined, without many lines. Originally, she didn't even have a name. She was just a price for her mother to pay for her own will. Oscar Wilde made her an own individual, with thoughts and feelings. Of course, she is still a victim of the patriarchy, but she also has power which she knows how to use. Tragically, the only power women had, in most cases, was their body.

Oscar Wilde's Salome is an interesting character. She isn't helpless in the same way as other versions, but a victim to her own lust, in the same way as Herod is portrayed. She uses Herod objectifying her to objectify John the Baptist. She does anything to finally be able to kiss him - or abuse him. This version is more about Salome's lust and will than Herod's lust and Herodias will. In this version it's Salome that wants John the Baptist's head. Since she can't master him in life, it has to be in death. There's no silver platter. Like a brutish conqueror, Salome takes hold of his severed head and kisses it. In this way, Salome's part isn't passive, but active, complicated, vengeful and ruthless. However, in the end, one might speculate about who is the most powerful character.

Oscar Wilde's prose isn't as rich and full of wit as it usually is. Whether it is a deliberate choice or not is unclear, but Salome shouldn't be about the prose. It's a simple tale with many complicated themes and way of interpretations.


Döden kvittar det lika by Anne-Marie Schjetlein

This is Anne-Marie Schjetleins debut novel, taking place in a hospital environment and centered around several characters, all seeking love in different ways, but finding loneliness. The chapters about the little girl, living in misery together with her mother and little sister, are the foundation of the story, and it's very clear they are the key characters, forming the novel.

The book is about what shapes us, the importance of or lack of willpower, and how deep the shadows of our past goes. What's interesting is that there is no judgmental tone. The author lets an unfaithful man, despite his selfish act, still be a loving father that cares about his family and his wife. Their marriage is a facade, a contrast to the raw reality that he must face as a doctor. His mistress becomes a safety-valve to his seemingly perfect, strict every-day life. However, a murder mystery makes everything even more complicated.

A fascinating stylistic choice by the author is to let the characters define each others. They regard each other from their own perspectives, which shows the reader different dimensions of them. It's difficult to introduce new characters after two thirds of the book. The police officers are almost superfluous and perhaps the book would have benefited without them. But all in all, it's rather well written for a debut novel, with some of the characters really defined and interesting.

Schjetlein is a nurse herself and really describes her characters fascination for their work, for life and death, as well as the vocation of helping other people. A hospital environment is a fitting place for a murder. As one of the characters notices, it is like a society in miniature with all sorts of people and facilities - a restaurant, a hairdresser, a church, a library and so on. It gives the opportunity of a tone resembling the atmosphere of Agatha Christie-novels.


The beast within by Émile Zola

The novel is dark and brutal with plenty of fights, sex and more murders than in any modern book. The story begins with a brutal scene between a married couple. Then, it just escalates into a crescendo of violence. ”The beast within” is such a contrast to the prudent writing of Victorian England.

Zola is examining the cause of violence. Jeaolusy, hatred and egoism are common factors, as well as the more unusually emphasized concept of atavism. Not one person is good. Every single one is very flawed and selfish, perhaps with the exception of the Cabuche, becoming a kind of martyr, carrying the burden of the defects of man. Zola doesn't portray women as particularly good creatures, but as guilty and evil as men, only that the conventions have made them think they need a man to do the deed, with Flore as an interesting exception. Of course, being a strong individual and able to make decisions and execute them, good or bad, Flore had to be very physically strong and big boned – described as manly, because a woman apparently can't be all that and still be feminine. On the other hand, Severine, a more timid woman - easier to like and identify with - made not so different decisions, which prove that Zola found women, regardless of their more or less modest or timid personality, as good or bad as men.

Despite all their flaws, the characters are easy to care for because they are portrayed as very human, perhaps more so than we might apprehend. They were not good nor exceptionally bad, just emotional and not very controlled, which, of course, brought disaster. Other factors are the occasion and surroundings. 

The concept of good and evil is very much a matter of circumstances, but all characters have the ability to be both. Everything exists in man. Every human being has a violent nature. What makes certain people commit murder is just due to circumstances. Another theme is the repercussions of succumbing to one's instincts. ”The beast within” is a refreshing, experimental analyses of violence and its core, origin and consequences. The railroad with its passing, unknowing, uncaring trains is a colorful contrast to the emotions living inside the characters, and the modern ways contribute to hide and repress the violent human nature, the beast within, making them appear civilized. As well as today. Civilization, with the conception of man above beast, might just be an illusion.


Hur man botar en feminist

In her fourth book, Nanna Johansson does everything to fit in, but it doesn't really work out too well. In the beginning of the book is an email she received which calls her a whore and that men have built the society and deserves to run it.

The title, translated, would be "How to cure a feminist", and she explains, very detailed and with sarcasm, that feminists exist only because they are not getting laid. Hence, she appears to have solved the problem. The book is a satire of the conventions and norms of society, both regarding politics and the patriarchy. She answer job ads, visits dating sites and thanks BIC for the female pen. Ironically, of course. She is relentless, ruthless and hilarious.