When the Stars Align • Connections Between Books

A little while ago I made a post talking about some of the books I hoped to get to during the summer months. A few weeks I think has passed since then, and I have noticed something funny in that list. It’s not something I had consciously thought of, making the list, but there are connections between the books I had added on the list. What sort of connections? you might ask. It’s not that the books are in the same genre, written by the same author, published in the same year, nothing that obvious; otherwise it wouldn’t have taken me such a long time to realize it was there at all. Instead there are red threads bounding the books, parallels, a network of ideas and voices.

To go from the abstract to the concrete, let’s take the Tove Jansson biography (Tove Jansson: Work and Love by Tuula Karjalainen) to start. The book that connects to her on the summer TBR list is Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. Now, the fact that Lewis Carroll was one of the influences for Jansson’s work was something I just recently found out, although I can definitely understand it having heard about it. The nonsense approach of Carroll I think would appeal to the creator of Moomins were the finesse of many other children’s stories is completely lacking, one of the charms I think of the stories and their characters. The connection is stronger however in that Tove Jansson actually illustrated two of Carroll’s books; one of them is Alice in Wonderland, which I knew about, but the other is none other than The Hunting of the Snark. I had never actually heard of this particular Carroll book before reading The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddharta Mukherjee so I don’t feel it’s one of his more known works, rather Alice and some of the poetry seems to be what people usually think of when they hear the name Lewis Carroll. But there you go – a completely unintentional connection in the same list.

I don’t normally do TBRs so the example above is unusual in that respect. But the feeling of reading a book that connects to another book you’ve just read, or even speaking of a topic you’ve just learned about, is such an all-stars-align moment and I find it is one of my favorite moments as a reader. It feels like I’m spinning my own spider web, further and further, connecting dots, and it’s somehow an enriching experience. Sometimes it’s not as unintentional or surprising as that, I have come to actively follow such paths or listen to the whispers of hidden trails more recently. Recently I read a book called Not that it matters by Alan Alexander Milne; it’s a collection of articles or as he himself puts it – essays – published between 1910 and 1912. In one of the essays he writes about a book he goes to lengths to recommend to everyone he can, it just happens to be The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. He talks of this book fondly, and with much praise. Again, this is one of the books on my summer TBR list – and while there’s an obvious connection between E. H. Shepard and A. A. Milne I had no idea there was a connection between A. A. Milne and Kenneth Grahame when I put the book on the summer list. E. H. Shepard who is well known for his Winnie the Pooh illustrations also did the illustrations for one of the most beloved editions of The Wind in the Willows. The edition of The Wind in the Willows illustrated by E. H. Shepard apparently came out in 1931 for the first time.

In other words, the essay in which Milne praises the book was published long before the Shepard edition came out. So, what can be concluded from this? Obviously it’s all guesswork here, but in my mind there seems to be a possibility that Milne talked fondly of The Wind in the Willows to his companion of the Pooh stories, Shepard, whom he would’ve worked with closely only a few years before 1931. Maybe Shepard already knew of the book, maybe his interest was peaked through Milne. Either way, there’s a connection there whether it was as clear and causal as my guess or not. One could probably find out about such information through a search on the internet, but isn’t this way more fun? To see sudden connected dots and guess the rest, fill in the blanks with theories.

It’s the little things that makes life fun after all, and when the stars align – whether they do of their own accord or by my intervention – I am just so happy to be a reader.

Advertisements

Natural History | Three is a magic number

Since I’ve gotten more into nonfiction over the last few weeks (or months) and have been reading a few interesting natural history nonfiction books in particular, I wanted to recommend a few specific titles that I think would appeal to a few different kinds of readers.


For the reader who is looking first and foremost to be entertained:
Rats by Robert Sullivan

9824

This book is sort of a mishmash of natural history, history of New York City and urban life in the modern world. Robert Sullivan spends a year observing one alley in NYC, in particular studying the alley’s rat population. He talks with rat experts of all kinds from pet control/exterminators to researchers to people working in restaurants and landlords, trying to capture this smart and ever present species in about 270 pages. It’s written in a chatty style, kind of like an essay collection by a comedian or internet celeb. Therefor I think it would appeal to people who aren’t necessarily reading a lot of nonfiction, or haven’t done so in the past; Sullivan definitely makes an effort to entertain – while also giving the reader something to nibble on (yes, I used nibble on purpose!).


For the reader who is into history/science but less familiar with natural history:
Rainbow Dust by Peter Marren

27384089

Rainbow Dust is just one of many books on butterflies, but while it certainly classifies as a natural history it is also very much a history of scientific research, the connection between butterfly collecting and science, the study of evolution, and the many men and women who have done work within the entomological field. Marren spends a great deal of time going back to yesteryear, talking of both collecting and illustrating of butterflies, of their place in history, and of the remnants left through time. Especially because the collecting of butterflies is a practice linked with its time (and is no longer as common as it once was), large parts of this book could be said to be more focused on history than (contemporary) nature. If you are interested in either science or history, or both, and want to broaden your horizons to natural history – this book might be something for you.


For the reader who wants a solid, passionate natural history:
Foxes Unearthed by Lucy Jones

27220154.jpg

It probably doesn’t come as a total surprise to see this book here if you know me, it’s my favorite piece of nonfiction I’ve read this year. Foxes Unearthed is a study of human’s relationship with foxes, specifically in Britain although things could apply to other countries as well. Lucy Jones goes through several aspects of this relationship, as well as observing the foxes on their own – and it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with the species after reading this book. While Jones talks of things like hunting and animal ‘control’, that are clearly loaded subjects, she takes pains to keep the book balanced and give voice to all sides of the fences. You don’t have to be interested in natural history to enjoy this book in my opinion, it might even turn you into a natural history reader – it’s just that good. One thing I feel this book has going for it over the other two titles is that Jones is also a pretty good prose writer. It helps – especially with a subject this interesting, it makes the book even sharper. If you’re interested in natural history, British nature, or human’s interaction with predators like foxes, or if you’re just on the market for a solid nonfiction title – this is definitely a book worth checking out.


That was all that I had to share today. I hope this might be helpful to someone out there, and that it might create an interest for natural history in books as it has done for me. If you’ve read any of these or have any other natural history recommendations, you’re very welcome to share in the comments.

Happy Reading,

Natalie

Summer Reading: 10 Books of Summer

10books

While it might be a little late to write this now, the summer technically starts the 21th of June in the Northern Hemisphere so really I am only a few days late.  Today I’m bringing you my Summer TBR, tbr standing for to-be-read although it’s a little more tentative than set in stone. I’m joining in on the 20 Books in Summer challenge hosted by Cathy of 746 Books but I ended up having an odd number, so while I’m using the number of 10 for the challenge – I’m really listing 11 here. I suppose I can see it as options? Or me being typically rebellious to rules? Anyway, here are the books I’m hoping to read during the summer weeks.

  1. Strange Heart Beating – Eli Goldstone
  2. No School To-Morrow – Margaret Ashmun
  3. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  4. The Hunting of the Snark – Lewis Carroll
  5. Fever dream – Samantha Schweblin
  6. Behind Bars – Ty Wenzel
  7. Corvus – Esther Woolfson
  8. Lost Animals – Errol Fuller
  9. The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature – ed. by Pat Rogers
  10. Tove Jansson: Work and Love – Tuula Karjalainen
  11. A Woman in Arabia – Gertrude Bell

 

That’s all for now, happy summer reading!

Natalie

Book Juggler; or how I became a polygamist reader

The little kitten ‘Marie’, in Disney’s Aristocats, once said:

2ff764864f966b84fb615b43db940126

If the same principal was to be applied to projects, I’m certainly not a lady. I have so many boxes filled with started projects and discarded projects, remnants of ideas and plans unfulfilled, and an even longer list of projects I’ve yet to start – waiting for me to either become realistic about them, or gather enough energy to kick-start them. All this is me saying I’ve definitely had the mentality of easy-to-start harder-to-finish since my younger years but it’s only in more recent years that this has translated into my reading life.

To be honest, it’s more surprising to me that this hasn’t always been the case. I love to learn and I don’t think this is something new to me. I used to make encyclopedias of sorts on topics ranging from Sailor Moon to dogs. I like collecting information, I like learning about new things – and I think that is one of the reasons I’ve always been inclined towards language learning, because learning a new language is a key opening doors otherwise locked and hence the access to ever more information. Books are obviously a great way to gain much knowledge and information, both in the way of nonfiction and the fictional stories. Not only would I say that books teach readers things of all kinds, but for me at least books have been key in creating new interests too. I just recently read a nonfiction book about foxes and one on butterflies and I am now on the look-out for basically any and all nonfiction titles on animals. Reading books (among other things) shape where my interests lie, where I want to gather more knowledge, what gap in my understanding I want to fill.

Reading more books than one at the same time feels like a continuation of the project-starting mentality, but also the wish to learn everything as soon as possible. As soon as possible is of course – now. Clearly there’s a practicality to consider here. Even though I want to read all of the books ever published in the Japanese language, or all of the books on the Rory Gilmore reading challenge list, I can’t read them all today, or this month, or even this year. I’m not a miraculously fast reader, nor do I spend every waking hour reading. All the same I get the urge to start a new book about twice a day, sometimes I hold on until I am finished with one and then add a new one to my currently-reading pile but other times I can’t hold on the self-control. I think what it comes down to is that I spend a lot of my free-time either reading, listening to book related podcasts or watching booktube, and surfing book-related websites like Goodreads. I am daily drowning in book recommendations and book lists of all sorts – from the type that are genre specific to ‘2017 best new releases’ or even upcoming titles. Because I hear about so many books, it’s harder to ignore the other books that are calling to me, other than the one I am actively reading.

I guess this is all just me saying that when I was younger I read a book at a time because I was mostly reading on my own, I didn’t really have any friends to share my love for reading. I would go to the library after school and hang around for a few hours before going home. Sometimes I’d even read the entire book while I was at the library, although they were mostly comics. While I have certainly had people in my life who enjoy reading, and people who have made me a reader in the first place, there weren’t many active readers in my life until I started spending time within the bookish community on the internet. Suddenly I was breathing books, and as a result it became harder to keep my focus on one volume at a time, to keep all the other books at bay.

Aside from the obvious lack of self-control and distraction-focus issues that are linked to the whole polygamist reader gig, there are actually a few real benefits with reading more books than one at a time. The main thing is that I’m a mood reader and if I have a book for every mood I can enjoy the books I’m reading to the fullest – at least theoretically. The other thing is that some books are physically more practical in different situations and different times of the day. So while I tend to read the heavy hardcovers when I’m sitting by a table, I read the paperbacks in bed. I will listen to audiobooks while I do my knitting, and I will sometimes read e-books while I’m eating. The reasons are all because they are most comfortable; hardcovers put on the table, paperbacks to hold in the air, audiobooks when my hands are busy, and e-books are easier to turn pages on.

So in the end, while I do at times reminisce about the time when I could focus solely on one book and give it my undivided attention, I’m also coming to an acceptance of my changing reading habits and reader persona. I think the only thing that could change this facet of my reading life would be if I suddenly increased my reading speed so much that I could finish a book before I got that urge to pick up another one. I wonder if that day will ever come. Are you a strict monogamist reader or do you juggle books like me? And are there any specific requirements for books you read at the same time? For example, I know many people read one nonfiction and one fiction book at the same time.

Until next time, happy reading!

The Dumb House • Book Review

I knew, pretty much instantly, that I was going to find much to like in John Burnside’s The Dumb House, from that rather striking opening scene of the experiment gone wrong, the twins being killed by the protagonist, Luke. From the things I’d heard of this book I had thought it was going to focus on the experiment, but while it is important it’s not so much the focus of the plot as the catalyst for the other events of this book.

I haven’t read Lolita but I imagine people who have will see some similarities in The Dumb House, particularly to do with seeing the reasoning behind sexual assault and domination over women from the assailant himself, through his eyes – what is most interesting with this perspective is I think the normalizing, the logic, the rationale behind said actions, and aftermath. In The Dumb House, Luke meets a woman called Karen with a child who is mute; he meets her because of her child, as he is looking into some things to do with his plans for the experiment – I’ll get back to that later. His relationship with Karen is clearly dysfunctional; he uses her in more ways than one and oversteps any moral rules or bounds – both in terms of his relationship with her child, but also with Karen herself. He has sex with her while she seems to be either unconscious or drunk, after which follows his excusing his own behavior as acting on mutual wants and needs, acting on her invitation, and so forth. While the actions of Luke are often condemnable and could easily have been the fall for this novel, it’s dealt with purposefully and the fact that Luke is justifying himself within the text is also a sign that he sees a problem with his actions, if not from his own point of view then from society’s at large. I’m not sure I’m making myself clear but what I found interesting about Luke’s action in relationship especially to the women around him, while I found the actions and his reasoning to be clearly wrong, I thought the way Burnside explored this process of neutralizing and normalizing to be interesting.

The experiment I’ve mentioned above, that Luke is trying to do, has as its main aim to find the soul. Basically he wants to know where in the body the soul is, to find some sort of evidence for it in the design of the human body, and this search leads him to focus on language learning. Specifically he wants to isolate a child from birth, with no access to any form of language, and see if that child develops a language without having an environment that would be responsible for it – basically if the ability for language is a skill we learn or if we’re born with it. The twins – a boy and a girl – that are introduced in the first chapter of the book returns in the last part of the book. The book is actually divided into three parts; the first focuses on Karen, the next on Lillian, and the last on the twins. So while the twin experiment is an important part of the entire book – his meetings with the other two women and all of his actions are part of his process to getting to the making of the experiment – the actual realization of the experiment is only one third of the book.

I thought there was a lot to like in this book. While the point of view of Luke and seeing his rationale for all of his actions was interesting, my main enjoyment came more from an intellectual side of things. By that I mean I found the many ideas to do with research, language, discourse, the soul, the body, humanness; all of these concepts and ideas to be both endlessly fascinating and thought provoking. It might be that many of my interests fall right into the themes Burnside explores in this novel – for example discourse and language is clearly at the heart of it, he talks for instance about what sort of role language plays in humans lives and I found both the discussion and the effects it had on the protagonist, to be really interesting. While a lot of the things Luke does is more ‘obviously’ wrong, there’s a lot of moral ambiguity for other things and I found that so much fun as a reader to explore. For example, he talks of the ethics related to research and science in general – what should and could be allowed, what kind of role a scientist has, etc. Or he speaks of the desire to understand the human body – and the only way to really see it in full is to open it up while the body is still alive. I think I really liked the ambiguity because it allowed me to think of things in new ways and not be limited to norms and ‘correctness’ – to go beyond the ways of thinking that is generally accepted so to speak, and be put in different perspectives.

All this said, I sometimes found the book as a whole to be a little lacking in direction, as if the three parts weren’t quite sewn together so that the cracks were visible. At points I found the story to be wandering off from the main points – like the whole Jimmy trouble, it didn’t seem to serve much of a point other than the ‘end’ of the problem so to speak. There were also quite a bit of repetitiveness in the writing towards the end, the same words and phrases being used with only a few pages in between – almost like Burnside had forgot he wrote them already. For example towards the end Luke says something about him being afraid of the twins, they seemed malevolent and then only a page or two later, he again says the twins were malevolent – as if it was new information. It just seemed a bit sloppy to me. I could understand if the repetitiveness was intentional – to show Luke’s ‘going mad’ as he himself explains he started to feel like he was going mad, started to hallucinate, etc. – but while it’s clear his actions and the Luke of the time of the events are starting to lose control of his ‘mind’, the Luke who is narrating is further on in time, he’s no longer in the same mind-space and should then not be this disordered in the writing for that reason. It doesn’t quite seem to fit. So anyway, I thought it was a shame that some of the writing wasn’t spot-on especially in the last section of the book.

I feel like what I got most out of this was the questions it raises, and the way Luke is navigating these themes, and part of the writing was quite beautiful and well-crafted, but it wasn’t perfect. I’m definitely going to be reading more Burnside though and I have a strong inkling I’ll be returning to The Dumb House in the future.

Foxes Unearthed |Book Review

I heard of this book when it first came out last year, had my eye on it for a while but wasn’t sure I’d be interested enough in the topic of foxes for an entire books worth. Lately I’ve been really craving writing on animal life, and this ended up being the first book I picked up. It helps that it’s absolutely beautifully published, with cover design by Nathan Burton and illustrations within by Tim Oakenfull. I’m definitely the type of reader to judge a book by its cover, at least partly, and this book sold me immediately. But, it bears little of the share for my love of it.

Lucy Jones has written a very well balanced, engaging, and quite thought provoking book on foxes – both foxes in terms of the many ideas, characters and myths surrounding it, and foxes in the flesh. The book is divided into parts, firstly Jones goes into the history surrounding the especially literary depiction of the fox, the sneaky, manipulative animal to the more endearing heroes of more recent cultural characterisations of the fox. She moves on to some more classic nature writing, describing fox as a species and its nature, habitat, situation all over the world but Britain in particular – as this book is at its heart focused on Britain’s relationship with the animal. The last chunk of the book explores the quite complicated situation and the controversies surrounding the animal – the fox hunters, farmers, city folks, parents, animal rights activist, etc. – all of the many different sides to the question of whether foxes poses a problem or not, whether hunting should be legal or not, if there’s a need for culling, and so forth – the two strongest sides of this lies with pro-hunting people on the one hand, and animal rights activists on the other. Lucy Jones further explores people who sabotage fox hunts (to discover illegal hunting, and if so – put a stop to it), people who take care of foxes in different ways, people who work within the culling side of things, hunters, etc.

As I stated earlier, it’s quite a balanced rendering of the somewhat complicated relationship humans have with foxes (at least in Britain but surely in other places of the world as well). While it is clear Jones is against hunting to a certain extent, and also believes much of the “problem” of foxes lies with humans – she says as much in the epilogue outright – she does make a point to give all sides of the topic a voice, highlights the value in each concern and side to the story. She points out for example farmers side of things, or the value in protecting certain other species and wildlife from foxes – in particular birds.

I enjoyed all of these parts immensely. I never realised for example how very much the behaviours of the fox resembles, to me at least, a dog’s behaviour. Jones actually does make some comparisons to dogs in the book. Cats, too. There were a lot of things to do with the political side of things I knew little off, I hadn’t even considered the fact that people could get so aggressive in this debate – this is especially concerned the meeting between hunters and saboteurs. I said earlier too that I found the book quite thought provoking, and most of these things had less to do with foxes specifically but with grander questions like humans relationship with animal life and with nature. Jones raises a few questions towards the last part of the book, that concerns just this – the boundaries between man-made environments and wildlife, the clash between the two and the “over-stepping” of one into the other, the things humans have done to create the current situation with foxes and other animals – where the urban areas grow wider and branch further, thus changing the homes of these animals, also making our “territories” closer, making meetings more of an everyday thing.

I also really liked the parts of animal rights activists, both in terms of politics and opinions, ideas, but also in actual actions, in the sabotaging; what should be legal and not, where one crosses a line, where the rights lie, who decides these things, and oh so many things. Another thing to be enjoyed that comes not from the actual contents and facts – is Jones’ writing, the way she goes about telling you the story of foxes. While not exactly extraordinarily beautiful in prose, with a few exceptions perhaps, I found her writing to be so utterly engaging and passionate, it really made me want to read on and on forever. I think this aspect is so important in nonfiction, especially with controversial topics or where there is a controversy – get people thinking, seeing sides and all that is important – but it’s much more likely to really get to people when it’s written with such an engaging tone. I will say towards the last few pages the book or the contents started to feel a little thin – like she had run out of things to say based on the research she had done/she had available, it felt like the rounding up was perhaps a little over-drawn. It was only really the last few pages, hence why it’s only a slight dent on the book and not a reason against it in my book.

All in all, a well worth read I would recommend to anyone who likes foxes, nature writing in general, animal wildlife writing in particular; or perhaps are just as fascinated and mesmerised by Britain’s nature as I am.

The Notebook; The Proof; The Third Lie

This trilogy of books, alternatively called The Twins trilogy or The Book of Lies, was published in a bind-up by Grove Press, I would highly recommend reading the novels right after the other as part of their value comes from the way they make a larger story together.

The Notebook is written in first person plural, therefor in “we”format. It’s quite an odd and unusual way of writing, and I think, likely to be done badly in more cases than not. However, Agota Kristof manages to create this narrative with precision and with elegance; never in this first book of the trilogy did the narrative feel distancing or like a gimmick. Because the “we”is really the twins – Lucas and Klaus – they resemble one person in many ways, because they are twins and the way they narrate the story you get the sense they are extremely close and have a very hard time being separated even for a short amount of time. They often think like one, behave and act like one, and generally stand as one. Therefor, although the narrator is done in plural it feels intimate, in comparison to one other instance I’ve read this form of writing where I felt very distanced by the use of “we”. The Notebook follows Lucas and Klaus as they are left by their mother to live with their grandmother, during the wartime – and to be left there until the war is over. We see them grow up, learn things – about the world around them and about people, humanity in its many perversions, weaknesses, evilness, desperation, kindness, and so forth. All of the sides to people that they meet, and their interaction with people in turn.

This book is incredibly haunting to read, filled with disturbing and stomach turning scenes and details – Kristof doesn’t stop at any taboo. I’m sure there are many parts in this book that would make many readers incredibly uncomfortable, uncomfortable enough not to keep reading. While I obviously found the book disturbing – and so very, very, sad, I couldn’t help but be in awe for Kristof and her craft. Part of this has to do with the narration being absolutely seamlessly done. Another reason for it is that because of our narrators being young, there’s sort of a lack of critical thinking within the narration. Because of the narrators being who they are, children, everything that happens to them and around them are not told in words of judgement or of spelling everything out, of analyses, or off shaping your reaction to it. There’s enough information for you as a reader to picture every horrifying detail of their situation without having everything being told in words – it’s still there, but it’s done with a subtle hand. There’s room too for different interpretations, especially with the dimensions of truth and lie, of reality and illusion – and having the writing be done in such a way as to leave room for such ambivalence, is the major reason I think The Notebook is far superior to both The Proof and The Third Lie.

The Notebook also quite resembles a fairytale. It has more obvious connections to fairytales in terms of themes and characters or roles, but also shares a sort of structure in the story telling that reminded me much of a fairytale. A fairytale has a certain melody in the writing that Kristof seems to be using too, in The Notebook – each chapter is quite short, filled with different “events” and “truths” the twins are noting down. They tell each other they will only write down true things, facts, and the book is supposed to be what they are writing between them as part of their ‘education’. Each chapter is short and filled with only a few key elements, then there’s the repetition in words, sentences or sentence structure, themes, all of the repetition also serves a purpose and because of this, never feels dull to read either. As I said some of the characters resemble roles out of a fairytale too – like ‘the priest’, or ‘the foreign officer’, or even ‘grandmother’; the majority of the characters have titles such as these rather than names – which strengthens the feeling of a caricature or a template of a person.

The Proof – the second book in the trilogy – is written more traditionally, in third person singular, and resembles other historical fiction I’ve read – especially focusing on the WWII era about, like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. We are now following only one of the twins, as a man, in his everyday life – but get glimpses of his twin brother from time to time. Much of what this book does is to open up to question a doubt that will likely have been planted already in The Notebook for many a reader; the question of whether the twins exist, meaning – if they were really twins, or a sort of invention by one lonely boy in the midst of political turmoil and uncertainty. This question isn’t necessarily answered in The Proof although it comes more to the forefront of the story. The Proof picks up right after The Notebook ended, but because the narration is written completely different it does feel like you’re reading a completely separate thing. The plot in this is interesting enough, and it’s still well-written – actually, I could really see this book work as a movie, but in comparison to The Notebook it’s definitely not as original or complex in my opinion.

Then comes the finale book in the trilogy, The Third Lie, which is definitely my least favourite of the three. I will say that while I think both The Notebook and The Proof could stand on its own and been read for their own merit – I could definitely see The Proof standing on its own, and The Notebook doesn’t necessarily ‘need’ the other two books; but The Third Lie is in my opinion entirely dependent on the previous two books. The Third Lie is interesting as a contrast to the previous books but has little value on its own – which is why it’s definitely the dullest to read, often I felt like I was peeking “behind the scenes”- like seeing an unfinished manuscript of a story. The Third Lie is sort of a continuation of The Proof – but mostly changed perspective to the other twin brother, and going back in time. The first part of The Third Lie is told in first person singular – so we get to see yet another style of narration by Kristof with the same narrators – which is definitely an interesting contrast. For the most part I would say that The Third Lie serves as an alternative telling of the first two stories (The Notebook and The Proof); it writes the story in a different way, following the same events and people, while putting them in different places – and I suppose it could seem as the “true” side of the story, the real way things unfolded, but it’s really quite uncertain which telling of the story is the true one – or even if either telling is true, whether it’s a mix of fact and fiction. The trilogy is called “Book of Lies” for a reason.

The Third Lie is interesting for its alternative telling of the story, for its ‘behind the scenes, let’s get to the bottom of this’ style, and for shifting the narration to the other brother after The Proof. But in all I found it less enjoyable, less enchanting or impressive, than the other two books.

I would highly recommend giving the trilogy a try, or even just the first one or two. But either way you go about it – I think there’s much of Kristof’s strengths that are on display in this trilogy and I would love to read more by her, and seeing what else she is capable of.