When I got a proof copy of Karl Ove Knausgård’s new book Autumn, I had no idea what to expect. Non-fiction, especially encyclopedias, can be quite strenuous to read sometimes, but I just took the plunge and wasn’t disappointed.
Autumn is the first of four books that form the Seasons quartet. In this encyclopedia, written for his unborn daughter and for himself, Knausgård takes up ordinary topics that everyone might encounter in life and describes them in short, personal pieces.
The encyclopedia entries make us aware of the things we take for granted and teach us to take a closer look at the world around us. One of my favorite chapters is the chapter on vomit. It is just wonderful to see how Knausgård can find beauty in something that many find revolting and that he is able to persuade you to see that beauty as well.
Not everyone might share Knausgård’s sense of humor, but some of his pieces are simply hilarious and laughing-out-loud funny, while others make you cringe like the chapters on adders or frogs. This emotional rollercoaster and the inclusion of personal experiences make Autumn an entertaining read.
Helen Sedgwick’s novel The Comet Seekers with its beautiful embroidered cover is published today. I was fortunate enough to receive a proof copy, so I was able to read this special novel before everyone else did 😎
2017: When Róisín andFrançois meet at a research station in the Antarctica, they aren’t aware of the many encounters they had in the past.
20th century: Róisín grows up in a small Irish village, becomes an astronomer and breaks out of her monotonous rural surroundings, while François’ mother Severine learns a family secret from her dying grandmother shortly before her son is born. This secret binds her to Bayeux for the rest of her life, but it is also the reason for François’ and Róisín’s shared passion for comets.
Set between 1066 and 2017, the plot spans almost a thousand years and tells the story of Róisín’s life and Severine’s family history. Severine’s family is closely connected to the Bayeux Tapestry and this valuable work of embroidery is skilfully threaded into the storyline. The chapters alternate between the present and the past, just like a needle repeatedly piercing the fabric to see what lies underneath.
While the blurb suggests that this is a story about Róisín and François, for me it is a story about Róisín and Severine. Not only are the two women close in age, Severine’s character is very well developed and the most fascinating in the whole story. Severine, who has a strong connection to the past, is bound to stay in Bayeux for the rest of her life, whereas Róisín travels the world and shows us more than just France and Ireland. She takes us to Hawaii, to Canada, to the United States and, finally, to the Antarctica.
Helen Sedgwick created a very special story that is so firmly set in this world that I had to Google a couple of things while reading. Its unique plot, likeable characters and references to real-world circumstances make The Comet Seekers a captivating novel that is hard to put down.
Dorte has just moved into a bungalow next to a train station. She is supposed to attend classes at university in Copenhagen, but decides to do other things instead.
This Should be Written in the Present Tense is a book where very little happens. The novel describes Dorte’s present and past life and her life, especially the past, is as normal as it can get for a young woman. For some this might not be enough, but I find Dorte’s reality intriguing. The novel has a depressing undertone and there is nothing overly dramatic about the plot, yet knowing that there is room for improvement in Dorte’s life is exactly what makes the book so fascinating.
This Should be Written in the Present Tense is a minimalistic novel that is just the right length. It might not be for everyone, but if you are a university student with the occasional motivation problem, you should be able to relate to Dorte’s story and give this brilliant novel a try.