Oh this is a good book. This is a very good book. There are many many things that are good about this book so I’m going to devide it up as it is so multi layered otherwise I’ll get all confused.
***MASSIVE SPOLIERS THROUGHOUT***
Oh shit, it’s the vampires
Parts of this book are just disgusting. Parts are really very scary. Other parts are beautiful. All three of these descriptors apply to the vampires.
I loved Eli. The combination of childlike innocence and great power was really well played. It was strange to feel truly sorry for a vampire, but Eli, a true victim of circumstance, was such a strangely sympathetic character. yes, ze emotionally manipulates people into doing hir will, and kills and eats the living in order to survive, but ze is the survivor of horrific abuse and the person ze is manipulating is abusing hir-the way in which Hakan (sorry can’t figure out how to add the dots) justifies his abuse because he ‘loves’ hir- oh it’s just so well done. This made me really think about the ‘who abuses who’ arguement for the condoning of sex work- in fact doesn’t Tommy compare his experience of selling his blood to Eli with his friend’s description of her experience of prostitution? I need to have a long an involved talk with someone who has also read this book who knows more about the theories of power than I do please.
The actually way the vampire myth is used, again, its just so well done. The idea of the heart growing it’s own brain, I’ve never read that before but it was creepy but also made so much sense-that’s why you have to stake the heart. The impracticalities of having an ‘infection’ transferred through blood (it’s set in the early 80s, so relevent, you could read this book on so many ridiculous levels) that means sunlight burns you and you have to kill others to survive-that bit where Virginia has fantasies about her daughter’s giving birth and the blood was so incredibly creepy because your brain does go in weird places sometimes and you do have to stop yourself from thinking certain things, is he humanising the monster or revealing the monsters within us all?
And that’s what I loved the most; the monster isn’t Eli. The truely monstrous acts in the book are committed by people; the bullies at school, the peaodophile ring that knocks out young boys teeth. Yet even they do these things because part of their brain is damaged, or othered by events in their lives. I think the main villain of the piece is in fact…
I’ve worked in pubs with regulars tables. The dynamics between the group in the Chinese Restaurant are again, spot on. The reserach in human behaviour that Lindqvist must have done…
Alcohol destroys all the relationships within the book; Osker’s parents, his relationship with his father, the drunks in the bar, especially the sad sad story of Lacke and Virginia. Tommy’s poisen is infact glue rather than booze but the basic message that addiction affects us all, and that that is all that vampirism in it’s basic form is. By turning an addiction into an infection that can be caught, is Lindqvist saying that alcoholism is catching, especially in the circumstances in which these people live?
The comparisons with Stephen King are obvious throughout. The idea of an area being a sysmptom of the crimes that take place in it, making vampirism another add-on to the broken-windows symptom list? Genious.
Much as it is the alcoholism, rather than lack of money, that prevents Lacke leaving, this is a direct parallel to Eli’s situation; they have plenty of money but cannot ‘leave’ because of a disease that means them immortal. The only way of breakng this immortality is through a painful, prolonged suicide. Eli is trapped in hir situation, just as the rest of the cast are trapped by their’s. Again, the monster is comparable to the human, and the monster is therefore humanised.
I also loved the idea of the place having no roots, much as Tommy and Jimmy the school bully, and Oskar himself to a certain degree, are fatherless. Eli’s father is never mentioned, hir ‘creator’ is an absent figure now, the memories of whom are painful and yet precious.
At some level, this book is purely about what friends will do for each other. Oskar and Eli’s deepening friendship was so sweet, innocent whilst at the same time having a sexual element to it. I especially liked Eli’s sexuality or gender. Because I am cis, and I am far more ignorant on this subject than I ought to be I have tried to keep this piece as gender neutral as possible in relation to Eli, but if I’ve got it wrong please berrate me and correct me.
How family ties can be not as important as friendship too is marvellously looked at. Oskar would quite happily leave his mother, who came accross as loving and supportive, if a little ignorant of Oskar’s needs, for Eli. Tommy’s situation with his mother and proposed step-dad leads to him making massive errors of judgement, because his mother acts as his friend rather than authoratative figure.
In fact in is when the figures of authority in the book try to become friends or family that problems start; the school teacher trying to get closer to Oskar is punished by a student being hurt. It is almost as if, combined with the great equaliser of poverty and situation that Lindqvist is saying that we need to higher power, some, not God, but leader of some form. Eli is almost the only leader, or respected figure of authority there is throughout the book and ze is a diseased child who kills people in order to survive.
There is so so so so so much more I could say about this book. If you’ve read it, and want to talk about it PLEASE let me know as this is the sort of thing that deserves a very long conversation!
If you haven’t read it, and read past the spoilers notice, a) why? and b) don’t let my ramblings put you off, it’s amazing, honest, 5/5 stars.