Tag: Revenge

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Trilogy # 3)

“When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it’s about violence against women and the men who enable it.”

7677839(See also, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Trilogy # 1))

Fiction must ring as true as non-fiction to the reader, just as non-fiction must be as engrossing as fiction.

This is a book that’s as cold, as precise, as categorical as if it were a true account of certain horrific events. Larsson’s writing reminds me of that of Frederick Forsyth and Ken Follett. Except that Larsson has a singular motive and it is crystal clear – to highlight crimes against women in every way possible.

Part 1 of the trilogy could be read as an independent book. As I stated in my review, I needed a bit of breathing space after reading it, because it was dark and brutal. I had no clue what was in store for me in the final book.

Book 2 and Book 3 are actually part 1 and 2 of the same story. We learn Lisbeth’s true history and uncover a massive government and secret service operation. We learn things that can never be un-learned.

The Millennium Trilogy Parts 2 & 3 is one of the most ambitious political thrillers I’ve read – which is saying a lot, since political thrillers are generally ambitious. In the hands of an author less skilled than Larsson, this subject matter would have injured itself. Not only that, Larsson gives a lot of back story to each character, no matter how unimportant. No other author could have accomplished that form of storytelling while not sounding boring. Larsson does so, and keeps the reader hooked. He makes the reader eager to listen, and he makes each character sound like someone you want to read about – no matter how insane or dull they are. Yes, I want to know what the characters are eating, wearing, just tell me (ordinarily, as is clear from my other reviews, I list this as a drawback)

The best part of this book is the snippet of history that precedes each major section of the book. Each snippet describes historical armies made up of only women soldiers. The author says how these rarely get documented or talked about. It was fascinating to read about the Libyan armies and the Amazons.

This is a story of abuse. If you thought Dragon Tattoo was graphic, this is a lot worse in terms of violence (and by “this”, I’m fusing Part 2 and Part 3 as one book). Are there completely unbelievable bits? Yes. But we’re back to the statement I made about less skilled authors not being able to carry it off. We hang on to every word. We believe every incredulity.

To give you a high level picture, I don’t think I have ever:

-Felt like I was on the roof of a bullet train, desperate to keep my balance (while enjoying that feeling)

Celebrated the death of one of the bad guys (or maybe I did, way back when Bellatrix Lestrange died. But that was a long time ago)

-Gasped audibly at an unexpected twist

-Screamed the following words at a page during a courtroom scene: BUTCHER THAT BASTARD!

I know those sound like hyperbolic statements that I am making impulsively. But wouldn’t you rather read the book and find out for yourself? It’s a whirlwind of a ride, I assure you.

As to why I have not summarized the story: the quote at the beginning of this post is the summary. Reading that quote made me feel like I was hearing it directly from the author. Like all his characters were put in this world, just so he could say that one line.

Oh, Mr. Larsson! You wonderful, brilliant man. Thank you!

My one regret remains that I’ve had these books since 2012, and only now did I read them.

Amazon | Goodreads

I have to put a note here about the translation: The book has been so flawlessly translated from the original by Steven Murray (pseudonym: Reg Keeland). Not once did I feel I was reading a translation or that something was lost or broken. Completely flawless!

Advertisements

Beauty and Sadness, by Yasunari Kawabata (Translation: Howard Hibbett)

9248070

Ah. Lost love. Adultery. Two extremely mishandled subjects in literature, yet so immensely powerful when done right. What do I say about Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Beauty and Sadness that has not already been said? What is it about this deeply haunting novel that lingers behind the dusty drapes of your mind long after you have turned the last page?

Beauty and Sadness is the story of Oki, a famous novelist, and Otoko. While in his early 30s, Oki had an affair with the fifteen-year old Otoko. Oki is already married and has a son. His wife, Fumiko, finds out about the affair, and Oki abandons the now-pregnant Otoko. Otoko delivers the child prematurely, and the child dies even before she could see it. All she ever finds out is that the child had jet black hair, like her own.

Oki then writes a novel about his affair with Otoko, which is considered to be his most accomplished work. He makes his wife type it out for him, and though jealous, she proceeds to do so. As it is obvious that the girl in the novel is Otoko, she is forced to leave Tokyo and move to Kyoto. All her prospects of ever getting married are ruined by the novel.

Now, over twenty years later, Oki wants to visit Kyoto and celebrate the New Year with Otoko. She is now a famous painter, and lives with her protege and lover, Keiko, a girl of volatile temperament. Convinced that Otoko is still in love with Oki, Keiko wants revenge – both on Otoko’s behalf, and also, out of her own jealousy.

Thus begins this strange and simple story of lost love and human nature.

This story reminded me in part of Memories of My Melancholy Whores (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) but perhaps only because of how delicate both these love stories are, in essence. They have very different plots.

Beauty and Sadness is one of the most visually enchanting books I’ve ever read. Consider this: The misty spring rain softened the outline of the mountain across the river and made it even more beautiful. Such beauty, such vividness. Granted that the book has the slightly stilted quality that nearly all translations have. But it only made me wonder how much more beautiful this book would have been in the original Japanese; how much it would have appealed to a native speaker who understood all its nuances.

It also explores the painful landscape of lost love, with all its demons – jealousy, heartbreak, rage, revenge. And the quietness with which those who have once loved someone continue to love them, though that part of their lives has forever ended: Even now he’s there within you, and you’re within him.

Most importantly, the book does not offer you everything on a platter. You fill the story in, in its little blanks. Never has a story of such passion been narrated so dispassionately, thereby severing all connection between the writer and his characters – describing them with no judgment at all – the very part where other writers fail when writing about adultery. Do we hate Oki? We must, but we don’t – we see him through the eyes of Otoko, one whose love for him has transcended everything else. Where does one find such love, except in art and literature?

And as it gradually culminates to its tragic end, you sigh and weep, for the love that once was. For one that will, perhaps, for eternity be.

Goodreads | Amazon