Awoman wakes up in the middle of the night. A strange man is in her bedroom. She lies there in silence, paralyzed with fear.The woman is an author and the man one of her characters, one in a long line that waits in her driveway for the time when she’ll tell their stories. He is so desperate that he has resorted to breaking into her house and demanding that she begin. He, the author decides, is named Alvar Eide, forty-two years old, single,works in a gallery. He lives a quiet, orderly life and likes it that wayno demands, no unpleasantness. Until one icy winter day when a young drug addict, skinny and fragile, walks into the gallery. Alvar gives her a cup of coffee to warm her up. And then one day she appears on his doorstep. Broken is an unconventional, subtle, and disturbing mystery from a master of the form.
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What an interesting concept this was. An author looks out her window and sees a line of people, old, young, injured, a mother with a dead baby, and others outside her door. From this throng, a man presses forward and steps across her threshold. The author names him Alvar and thence begins his story. Alvar is the main character in her new novel, and he takes to visiting her in her home, questioning her motives in writing scenarios and people into his story. He wants his story to be memorable, wants to be memorable to her, the author. He reminds her to eat and look after her health, for without her, his story remains in limbo and he fades into obscurity. This book is as much the story of the author's relationship with her character, Alvar, as it is the story of Alvar and how his life spirals out of his control when a young drug addict walks into the art gallery in which he works.more
A brave attempt to try something different, or an unnecessary deviation from the crime novel? It all depends on your point of view. I'd read one of Karin Fossum's books before, so I didn't expect something wholly conventional. The form took me a bit by surprise, though.I found the dual narrative threads a bit distracting, so I put this down often during reading, before finally finishing the book. However, I admire the author's courage in trying something different. There's the same cool detachment I found in the novel I read before this, and also the same empathy. It's just expressed in a different form.more
I loved Fossum’s Black Seconds, so I expected to like this by default. The book’s concept, that a character is harassing the author to write about him and must face the story she presents to him, is definitely a bit indulgent. It feels like something she wrote while stuck on another project, something that probably should never have been published. But that wasn’t my problem with it. The main character, Alvar, is at first intrigued by the young, drug-addicted waif that wanders into the gallery where he works. Later, she just takes advantage of him. Here is where I confess that I only made it about 3/4 of the way through the book and have no idea what happened in the end, because the more she pushed him and took advantage of him and the more he found himself unable to say no to her, the more uncomfortable it made me feel. Real, deep in my chest, bordering on anxiety uncomfortable. I guess you could consider it a plus that the author was able to invoke those sorts of feelings in me, but it really just meant that I had to put down the book. Maybe it all turned out okay in the end, and everyone got their due — I just don’t know. I’ll definitely continue to read Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series, but I’ll have to give anything like this a pass.more
I love Karin Fossum's novels, and pre-ordered this so I could read it as soon as possible. But it turns out to be the exception that proves the rule. In this novel, Fossum herself (or an unnamed novelist who speaks in the first person) is one of the central characters, growing more and more involved in a Pirandello-esque situation where her characters come alive, affecting the outcome of the conventional novel that is proceeding in parallel. If it sounds complex, it is. As a demonstration of writerly pyrotechnics, it works nicely, but I didn't enjoy it the way I have her other books.more
The author sits at her desk staring out at the long queue of people waiting on the drive outside her house. They stand there in the shadows, waiting to become characters in her book, for their stories to be told. That night, while she sleeps, one of the characters jumps the queue, enters her house, and sits in the chair by her bed.The author agrees to tell his story next. She gives him a name, and begins to tell his story. But the reader knows Alvar has no story until the author creates it. Alvar Eide is forty-two years old, a bachelor, who works in an art gallery. His father had lived to only fifty-three and Alvar imagines that he himself has only eleven years to live. Alvar is a little old-fashioned both in his attitudes and his appearance about which he is fastidious. He doesn't relate to people very well, which is why he doesn't know how to handle the young girl, a homeless drug addict who works out how to get him to give her money. She steals a door key from him so she can let herself in and out of his house whenever she wants to.The novel is told on two levels. Alvar visits the author whenever he feels that he isn't coping, or when he doesn't feel she is carrying out her part of their relationship properly. Ultimately the author is the one who has control over what happens to Alvar. She says early on that she is not god, but in terms of Alvar's life she is. Alvar knows that the author's computer is full of drafts, of stories lying incomplete and he is frightened that she will forget about him. She on the other hand creates situations that will test Alvar and some of these tests he fails miserably.In BROKEN Karin Fossum plays with the reader's mind. We wonder how much free will Alvar really has. The idea that he is a fiction of the author's creation is a challenging one, even though we know it to be true. Fossum dabbles in metaphysics, with the very nature of Alvar's existence. We know that authors create their characters, but how real are they to the author who created them? The author and Alvar even discuss the methods by which he might die. We see some of the dilemmas that an author faces in bringing a novel to publication, how she lives and breathes through the characters that she creates, how they take on a life of their own.For those who have enjoyed Fossum's Inspector Sejer series, this stand-alone is very different. Although someone does die, some would not label it crime fiction. For that reason some Sejer fans will be disappointed. For my part, I prefer the Sejer series. BROKEN made me feel as if I was performing mental gymnastics.The Inspector Sejer novels from the Norwegian "Queen of Crime" are1. Don't Look Back (2002)2. He Who Fears the Wolf (2003)3. When the Devil Holds the Candle (2004)4. Calling Out For You (2005)aka The Indian Bride5. Black Seconds (2007)more
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