Posts Tagged ‘Denmark’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Sarah K’s Picks

December 23, 2014

These five books were the ones that stuck in my mind during 2014. They reveal truths about our shared humanity while introducing readers to new places and new forms of style. Take a moment to try these out; they are well worth your time.

Claire of the Sea LightClaire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat
On the night of Claire Limyè Lanmè’s seventh birthday, she disappears. Motherless, her fisherman father Nozias has decided to give Claire away to Madame Gaëlle, a shopkeeper who lost her daughter in an accident years earlier, to ensure Claire greater opportunities. As the members of the seaside Haitian town of Ville Rose, search for her, their interconnected stories, secrets, and losses emerge. Danticat creates vivid characters and her writing captures the beauty and sorrow of daily life.

The CommitmentsThe Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Put together a group of Dublin working class misfits with the soul sounds of the 1960s and you have Roddy Doyle’s punchy and charming novel about the joys of rock and roll. The book follows the escapades of the band as they combat over practice, get through their first gig, cut their first single and run into inevitable creative differences. Doyle’s free-flowing bawdy dialogue is exhilarating. So, if you are looking for some fun, introduce yourself to the Hardest Working Soul Band in Dublin: The Commitments.

My Struggle Book OneMy Struggle Book One by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Karl Ove Knausgaard blurs the lines between fiction and memoir in the first volume of his novelistic autobiography. The book begins with a meditation on death and then proceeds to explore Knausgaard’s childhood and fraught relationship with his troubled father. This expansion and contraction of universal ideas and the minute details of Knausgaard’s life creates a fascinating tension between the author and the reader. Knausgaard lays his life out on the table with unflinching directness for the reader to examine. My Struggle is probably not for every reader, but it is something strange and new.

AusterlitzAusterlitz by W. G. Sebald
Traveling across Europe, the unnamed narrator meets and befriends Jacques Austerlitz an architectural historian. As their relationship develops, he gradually learns of Austerlitz’s search for his lost history. As a small child, Austerlitz’s mother placed him a Kindertransport to Britain where an aged Welsh couple adopted him and gave him a new identity. After learning of his birth family after their deaths, Austerlitz begins to discover his past and how the Holocaust severed his past life from his present. Uncanny, hypnotic, and dreamlike, Austerlitz conveys the incompleteness of memories with their ragged and hazy qualities, while capturing the devastation of the Holocaust.

The Patrick Melrose NovelsThe Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
Edward St. Aubyn pillories the excesses and absurdities of the British upper class with elegant prose and vicious wit in this cycle of four novels. He begins with Patrick’s childhood relationships to his sadistic father and neglectful mother, and following him into a ravenous drug addiction, recovery, marriage and fatherhood. His character eventually reaches a form of uneasy redemption. Patrick and the world he inhabits aren’t likable, but there’s a level of truth to St. Aubyn’s storytelling, as Patrick struggles to place himself beyond his lifelong demons. Despite some of their grim subject matter, the novels are deeply, darkly funny.

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

March 5, 2012

Some readers may characterize the fairy tales of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen as melancholic, sad, and sentimental – true, it’s all there – but Andersen is a complex author whose tales are wonderfully rich and multifaceted.

Harold Bloom once said, “Andersen was a visionary tale-teller, but his fairy-realm was malign. Of his aesthetic eminence, I entertain no doubts, but I believe that we still have not learned how to read him.” Be that as it may – generations have been entertained by Andersen and for more than a century he has made people smile, snicker, snivel, shudder, and laugh. To read Andersen can be a sweet and tender experience, but it can also be nerve wracking or like taking a knife in your heart. And his humor is often as drastic and unexpected, as here, in The Traveling Companions. “Then the [marionette show] started, and it was a nice play with a king and a queen. They sat on the loveliest of thrones, with golden crowns on their heads and long trains on their garments, because they could afford it. […] It was quite a charming play, and it wasn’t the least bit sad. But just as the queen stood up and walked across the stage, then… Well, God only knows what that big bulldog was thinking. But since the fat butcher wasn’t holding on to him, the dog leaped at the stage and grabbed the queen around her slender waist, making it say ‘crick, crack!’ It was simply dreadful!”

What in the world!

The directness of Andersen’s storytelling, closely related to the traditional folk tales, makes it relentlessly powerful, and his imagery is splendid, stark, vivid, loving. “With fear in her heart,” it says in The Wild Swans, “as if she were about to commit an evil deed, she crept out into the moonlit night, down to the garden. She walked down the long lanes out to the deserted streets and over to the churchyard. There she saw, sitting on one of the widest headstones, a group of Lamias, hideous witches. They were taking off their rags, as if they were going to bathe, and then they buried their long, gaunt fingers in the fresh graves, pulled out the bodies, and ate their flesh.”


In Andersen’s fairy tales, the reader will encounter the Little Mermaid, the Emperor who marches naked down the street, the steadfast Tin Soldier, the Ugly Duckling, a Princess on top of twenty mattresses and twenty eiderdown quilts, the Snow Queen, and Death, witches, and trolls. His world is a world of wonder and terror, where salvation is not always granted, and where ancient folk tales collide and mingle with Christian sentiments.

Hans Christian Andersen’s writing is one of the wonders of the world.

Find and reserve the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen in our catalog.

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