Violence and more violence

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published July 24th 2013 by Text Publishing

A story of friendship between two young women that is forged through poverty, violence, family expectations  and discovering love.

This is a powerful novel that resonates the difficulties of friendship as you mature. The doubts of having a close friend who you come to rely on and the anxieties of finding your own place in the world.

Ferrante writes with great beauty, capturing the world her characters inhabit with great realism and you can vividly picture the streets, the shops that they walk through. The characters that she has created are flawed, beautiful and ugly. It is their ugliness I found the most compelling as it you appreciate their motivations. There are also insights which come as shock when the age of the parents is revealed and you realise that this is a cycle of behaviour.

There is a great deal to like about the novel, it is richly detailed and the characters are well realised. I understand why there is a great deal of hype surrounding this series of books and the author.

The Girl in the Spider's web
David Lagercrantz
In the girl in the spider’s web we catch up with Blomkvist a couple years after the last book. Millennium has been purchased by a new media group and things are looking shaky. He is still considered one of Sweden’s premier journalists but finds himself besieged by every crackpot theorist with the next big mystery waiting to be solved approaching him. Everything around Blomkvist appears to be on the point of disaster and his colleagues are looking at him to save the day with another ground breaking story.
For Blomkvist he is being reputation is being attacked via social media and he appears to be going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. He is unmotivated at work, binge reading Elizabeth George novels and generally not giving a toss about anything.
Elisabeth is just, well missing for the first third of the book. There are snippets about her, she is wealthier than God, lives several blocks from Blomkvist and is still on the trail of a perceived injustice via her hacking skills. When she does arrive there seems to be a lack of complexity and I am not sure Lag has captured her on page.
The story slowly kicks into gear when Frans Balder and his son August enter. Balder spends a lot of time lamenting his failed relationships, what a bad person he was and how he will do much better in the future. It becomes tiring after a while reading all this internalisation when you are waiting for something to actually happen.
I acknowledge that it is hard to step into the shoes of a literary phenomenon and David Lagercrantz is very brave in making this attempt. I am not wholly convinced that the bravery has paid off and I am not sure that I can lay all the problems with the book at the feet of the author. I found the text to clunky and poorly written in parts and I did wonder if the issue may have been in the translation. I often found myself re-reading sentences to try and understand their actual meaning.
The idea for the story is quite good and has all the elements for a suspenseful read. However I found myself being bogged down by slabs of text that did not drive the story forward at all. There is a lot of describing events (storms, Millennium’s woes) and characters going over and over relationship issues. I was beginning to wonder if the story was ever going to take off.

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