Monday 4 February 2013

Little Star.

Little Star is the latest novel from "Sweden's answer to Stephen King" (as the Daily Mail calls him, a comparison just dripping with originality) John Ajvide Lindqvist. It's a follow up to his last novel Harbour which is a book I loved (I actually felt sad when I finished it because I was enjoying the experience of reading it so much) so I was looking forward to reading this very much. There's a definite style to Lindqvist's writing, one I find very similar to another of my favourite writers John Irving, a matter of fact, and yet at the same time quite arch telling of the story. There's a real sense of being "told" the story as you read it.
In keeping with this style, the novel begins almost as a fairy tale with a foundling child being discovered in a forest. The decision of Lennart, a musician who makes the discovery, to take the child home and keep the it a secret has profound implications for himself and his family. What follows is a grim fairy tale indeed.
There are many themes running through this novel, the notion of chance, and how small events and decisions can have massive, life changing effects is a constant throughout the six hundred and odd pages. The whole notion of identity is explored, and the development of character and personality (the young girl, who will come to be known as Theres, is exposed to video nasties at an early age and this, coupled with her "parents"' tactic of convincing her the outside world is a dangerous place full of monsters, is a major contributing force to what leads to the horrors that unfold, creating a skewed notion of what reality is).  
The brainwashing that occurs in Theres' early life is another major theme of the book and Lindqvist takes it and runs, turning the book into a devastating satire on the cult of celebrity, and in particular the manufactured reality of pop-idol shows. Despite having no discernible personality (having never been allowed to develop one), Theres becomes a celebrity and even attracts a cult following, in particular a group of teenage girls who hang on her every word and who will do anything for her...
That "anything" turns out to be the devastating finale to the book. It's controversial (so much so I'm surprised the Daily Mail were happy to praise the book) and horrifying. But then there are many controversial and horrifying things happening in this novel, made all the more so by the aforementioned style of writing. I for one will never be able to listen to Abba's Thank You For The Music in quite the same way again.
I loved Little Star though not in the same way that I loved Harbour. It's quirky, and leaves a lot of stuff open-ended and unanswered, and parts of it are disturbing to read, not because they're exploitative but because they are genuinely disturbing things that are happening. Yes, it's an allegory but the message is woven into beautiful prose that will keep you turning the pages.
Very much recommended.

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