Friday 31 December 2021

Some Books I Read in 2021


I just had a look at my list of books that I read in 2021. On average, I've consumed about 1 book per week - which is pretty much what it usually adds up to at the end of a year for me. That includes printed books, e-books, and audio books. Some bought, others borrowed; some in English, some in Swedish: some new, some old; some read for the first time, and some re-read; some reviewed before on this blog, and others not.

Below is a selection of titles, including some that I did write reviews about, and some that I didn't. Normally I don't review Swedish books here unless I know they can also be found in English. But I'm making a few exceptions here... Even if you can't read the books, mentioning them may still say something about what kind of books I've been reading.

In the early months of the year, I read a series of books by Kay Bratt, set in China, The Scavenger's Daughters. From those, I'm still left with a lot of "images in my head" of lives very different to my own. Around the same time, I also read a book in Swedish written by a friend of mine who lived in China for many years and who was recently asked to write a summary of the history of missionary work in China by a certain Swedish church/denomination.    

In March, I read a Swedish book that made a much deeper impression on me than I had expected. You won't be able to find it in English, but I'll mention it briefly anyway. It's one I inherited from my parents. It's a diary kept by a Swedish soldier, crofter, navvy and blacksmith who lived in this area of Sweden 1843-1925, during the same time as some of my own ancestors on dad's side of the family. The manuscript was found in 1990 and was published by the local history society in the village where my parents lived. The title translated would be something like 'Many dogs will be the death of the hare' (a proverb). It's written in the local dialect of 100+ years ago - and moreover there were no spelling rules back then! I always thought it would be hard to read. But once I got started, I found myself fascinated. I could see quite a few parallels to the life of my p. grandfather's grandfather, who was a soldier, crofter and  stone mason. Around the same time, I was also going through and re-typing (into my computer) some family history notes by my grandfather. 

In May, I listened to The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, as audio book. That brought back memories of the black & white TV series based on those novels from the 1960s. Quoting from my own review:

If you're not familiar with the story, it spans over three generations of a "commercial upper-middle class" family in London, starting in the Victorian era during the 1880s and ending in the early 1920s. It's a lot about their relationship to money and social status, but also deals the general developments within society during that time - and not least the changing position of women.

In July, I read Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 2017). It's another one not easily forgotten, as it has an AI robot as the main character.

In August, I read a Swedish novel which I first borrowed as e-book from the library, but then decided to also buy in paperback, as I really liked it and may want to return to it. The author's name is Marie Hermanson. Several other books by her have been translated into English, but alas I can't find this one among them (yet). It was published in Swedish in 2018, and the title in English would probably be 'The Great Exhibition'. It's about the Gothenburg World's Fair in 1923, and involves Albert Einstein who was invited to hold his Nobel Lecture there. The author has taken some liberties in getting the famous man involved in the plot of her novel - but it's done in a both clever and entertaining way. If it has not yet been translated into English, it ought to be!

In September, I read another Swedish novel, by Swedish-Finnish author Susanna Alakoski. It's the second in a series of novels about the history of textile workers in Finland and Sweden. This book takes place in the 1950s and (among other things) involves the immigration of many Finnish textile workers to BorĂ¥s, where I now live. Where I grew up myself in the 1960s (100 km or so north of here) we had a lot of Finnish immigrants as well. Part of this novel is also set in London, though, and the book title in English would be 'The London Girl'.  I love the author's short introduction to the book: "My mother worked as a nursemaid in London for five years. There she bought a coat and met Frank Sinatra and Liz Taylor. That's all I know." And from that she built a whole story... I found that inspiring!

Another book I read in September was The Essex Serpent. Quote from my review: 

I found this a captivating but rather unusual sort of novel - hard to quite categorize. It's far from a straight forward love story; and at the same time, the Essex Serpent remains more of a background mystery than the real focus. Themes of love, friendship, grief, fear, obsession, superstition, faith and science keep intertwining throughout.

In October, I listened to a new children's book by J.K. Rowling - The Christmas Pig. It's a story for young children, but still enjoyable for adults as well (at least if you're still in touch with your inner child). It's about a boy who loses his favourite toy, a plush pig. Just before Christmas, it gets thrown out of a car, and is lost. For Christmas, he is given a new one - but replacing a favourite toy is hard: a new one is never quite the same... However, Christmas Eve is "a night for miracles and lost causes" ... The replacement pig takes Jack on a magical journey to seek for his old friend in "the land of the lost" - which turns out to be the mystical place where all kinds of lost things go - not just toys, but also things like scissors or combs or whatever... (I can see this book being turned into an animated film one day!)

After I got my new Kindle towards the end of October, I started reading the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I came across a cheap Kindle offer of all four novels in one. So far I've read the first two parts: My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name. I think I'll wait to write more about them until I've finished all four, though.

Happy New Reading Year 2022 to everyone who loves books! :) 

(If you wish, name a favourite book of yours from 2021 in the comments!)

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Time Marches On

Time marches on... Only two days (+ a few hours) left of 2021 as I write this. Lots of things to sum up, but I haven't really got round to that yet (and not sure to what extent I will). 

Monday offered another day of crisp cold weather, snow and sun. I had an errand or two so went for a walk into town again. Didn't bring the camera this time, but I had my phone... I walked in the opposite direction compared to the day before, along the other side of the river through the city centre, and past the railway station on my way back; so got some views that differ a little from the previous post. 

Since Monday, the sun has gone into hiding, the temperature has risen to around freezing point, and we've also had some more snow. Streets and walkways are now more slippery for both vehicles and pedestrians, so yesterday and today I've only been out briefly, and close to home (and have given the cameras a rest too).

New Year's Eve around the corner; but once again my traditional get-together with a handful of friends on that evening has been cancelled (by mutual agreement, due to various corona-related precautions). I'll probably have time to put in another post of some kind here before the year runs out - but if not, I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Monday 27 December 2021

Boxing Day Walk

Yesterday was Boxing Day (or, as we say in Swedish, "annandag jul" = 2nd Christmas Day). It was also the third Christmas day in a row with perfect weather for a winter walk. This time I chose to walk to the park in the city centre, and back a different way. (I'm fortunate in that respect - being able to walk into town and back kind of in a circle rather than having to turn round and walk back the exact same way that I came.)


Approaching the city centre. Across the road, I turn right to go down into the park.

(Above and below:) A very "Narnian" place in the park: A kind of stone portal on one side of the path, and a lamppost and a "broken stone table" on the other...

Empty (summer) dance floor in the foreground, with winter ice skating rink behind.

Mostly open water in the river, but some thin ice along the shores here and there.

Leaving the park now, and looking back towards the city.

Walking back towards home along the river

Finishing off with a (somewhat distorted) panorama view of the football field close to home.

Saturday 25 December 2021

Christmas Day: Another Wintry Walk

Still snowy with blue skies and sunny today - and even colder than yesterday: Around -15°C (5°F) when I got up this morning (~9:30 am),  still around -9°C (15°F) at noon when I went out for my walk. I decided to go in the opposite direction today for a change (towards the southern outskirts of the town). Here there is a less frequented park, sloping down towards one bend of the river. The walkways in that park aren't plowed in the winter, so it involved the "adventure" of walking in some almost untouched snow. The snow just now is not really all that deep though - and I had good boots on, plus my walking poles for extra safety. 

Handling two walking poles, mittens + a camera is somewhat of an adventure it itself, though - involving a lot of stopping, shifting one of the poles to the other hand, taking off mitten, getting the camera out of the bag, taking photos (using one hand only, as the other is busy holding the two poles); then reversing the procedure: camera back in bag, mitten back on, grab both poles, walk a few more steps; one minute later (or less), stopping again, and repeat... etc, etc! -  On a day like this, worth the trouble, though! ;-)



Friday 24 December 2021

A White Christmas

It's not very often that we get a true "White Christmas" here in south-west Sweden, but this year we did. As you might remember, we also had quite a lot of snow during the first part of December this year (also unusual); but then it went away. The last couple of days it's been snowing a bit again, though; and today, on the morning of Christmas Eve, I woke up (not too early...) to these views, and temperatures well below zero (freezing point):

A bit later, I put on multiple layers of clothes and went out for a walk.  Across the old cemetery nearby, down to the riverside for a bit, and then back up to the cemetery again. I think I was probably out for about an hour. Didn't really bother to keep track of time, as I knew I had the day to myself; with no appointments to keep except a Skype chat with my brother in the late afternoon.


The Sound of Snow


All in all, I had a very relaxing Christmas Eve (the main day of Christmas celebrations here in Sweden). To all of you around the world who may still be waiting for Father Christmas or Santa Claus or Whoever to come and deliver presents in your stockings or under your tree or whatever is your tradition, I wish you 

And if it is not white,
I hope it will at least be bright!

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