Book Review: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

translation from the Swedish to English by Ebba Segerberg

“Can I come in?”

Oskar whispered, “Ye-es…”

“Say that I can come in.”

“You can come in.”

Set in 1981 in  a lower working-class town called Vällingsby, Let The Right One In centers on twelve-year-old Oskar who lives with his loving and over-protective mother.   Away from school he listens to Kiss and collects articles about murders for his scrapbook.  During school, he is mercilessly tormented by a group of bullies.   The emotional and physical abuse he suffers at their hands is described in realistic and heartbreaking fashion.  It is little wonder he jumps at the chance of befriending a solitary girl he meets in the park. 

Trouble is, her arrival coincides with a string of recent murders.

Oskar quickly grows close to Eli, who encourages him to stand up to his bullies.

His friendship with her is set parallel to the relationship between the fifty something year-olds Lacke and Virginia.  Lacke just wants to stay sober and save enough money to buy a little retirement cottage for the two of them.

Unfortunately, their paths cross with Eli and Oskar.

Lacke suspects the young girl of being responsible for murdering a friend of his though most people won’t listen to him.   And Virginia comes into direct contact with the Eli…

One of the major pluses of this coming-of-age novel is the characters.  There are no stereotypes here.  No one-dimensionl cliches.  They’re all incredibly real people- most of them are basically good folks who just want to live their lives the best they can.

The negative side of the novel, sadly- is again, the characters.  Or, more specifically, that there are too many of them.  While Lacke’s and Virginia’s relationship was a beautiful contrast to the one between Oskar and Eli,  there was another subplot revolving  another  young boy which, while also well-written, seemed entirely unnecessary.  And with less time spent on Oskar, I found my interest in his outcome waning by the end.    The fact that the book was at least 100 pages longer than it should have been, didn’t help in that matter.

Regardless of those few negative aspects, the novel is a gripping and richly told story.  Not quite horror in the truest sense of the word, it is more of a  look into the lives of a group of people trying to survive in their gritty town.    And of a young girl who needs their blood if she is to survive.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm  Comments (26)  
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Vampires in German

Whilst reading the horror-pulp novella, Friedhof der Vampire by John Sinclair, I was reminded how enjoyable vampiric tales are in German. There is something about the language- the strong consonants joining those elusive umlauts to produce a cool, aloof sensuality- that makes it perfect for tales of the macabre.

Here is some vocabulary you’ll often come across:
unheimlich: eerie, uncanny
das Blut: blood
übersinnlich: supernatural
der Geist- ghost
das Grauen- horror
der Totenschädel- skull
die Leiche: corpse
gruselig: creepy
der Schrecken: dread
die Hexe: witch
der Sarg: coffin

Published in: on June 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm  Comments (23)  
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The Devilish World of John Sinclair


Note: Some of you probably know that I have been studying German.  (a rather wise thing to do if one is living in Germany)    I wanted  to chronicle the books I was reading during this linguistic journey,  but since such posts would be somewhat OT for this blog, I resorted to making The German Book  List Page, that my friends and readers could click on if they desired.  Well, now it’s nearly June, and that page has become rather long with all the updates and comments.  So rather than have those interested wade through that bog, I decided it made more sense just to write normal posts.

My adventures in Deutsch began with Agatha Christie.    After learning terms for all things related to murder, death, suicide, poisonings, stabbings, and confessions, I segued into various authors ranging from Charles de Lint to Steinbeck.

For all the different genres I read- the authors had one thing in common:  their native language was English.

Being familiar with their work had been a great starting point.   At least I knew what the gist of the story entailed.  But this April, I decided it was time to discover all the native German language authors that I’d been missing out on.

Having decided to hold off on the luminous, classic German authors until I could more fully appreciate the beauty and power of their prose,  I began my venture with the popular horror pulps.

Thus, for two months I have been curled up, devouring the devilish world of John Sinclair.

Who?  Most of my fellow Americans are probably asking right now.

Ah, John Sinclair is the main protagonist (a Scotland Yard inspector of supernatural crimes) in a series of  best- selling novellas by Jason Dark.  The series which began in 1973 and continues to this day, are slightly creepy but without gore, and may be likened to the 19th century penny dreadful.   To date,   Mr. Dark has penned nearly 2,000 of these gruselromane featuring witches, vampires, demons, and werewolves.

Mr. Dark (pseudonym of Helmut Rellergerd)  writes three to four novellas per month on an old-fashioned manual typewriter, and has been quoted as saying as soon as he finishes one, he sticks in another sheet of paper and begins the next.

Needless to say, the stories contain little literary merit.   Oftentimes, they are even unintentionally hilarious, sprinkled with such lovelies as:  “Du verdammte Hexe wirst sterben.  Ich werde dich zu Tode quälen.”   (“You damn witch will die.  I will torture you to death.”) .  Lady Laduga war auch fast eine Katze.  Manchmal sanft, dann wieder leidenschaftlich, zügellos.  (Lady Laduga was also almost like a cat.  Sometimes soft, then again passionate, unbridled. )  Not to mention a penchant for exclamation points:  Ein Totenhemd! (a burial tomb!),  Er wandte den Kopf…und sah in das Gesicht seiner ersten Frau!  (He turned the head… and saw the face of his first wife!)

So what is Mr. Dark’s secret for such successful longevity?  Simple.   There’s no pretense.  There is a sense that the author is winking at his readers,  and that  he,  himself, accepts the stories for what they are:  a quick, easy, enjoyable read.  

*excerpts from, Das Leichenhaus der Lady L ( The Mortuary of Lady L)